Next week, Virginia House of Delegates member Joseph Morrissey will introduce a proposal to tax plastic bag use in the state. Unlike previous bills that have come through the House, Morrissey’s carries a relatively hefty 20 cent fee for each bag used. The List spoke to Morrissey about his passion for reducing bag use and what he hopes to achieve with his legislation.
Why a bag tax?
Morrissey says it’s not about raising revenue, but about changing people’s attitudes and reducing bag trash. “Two billion—that’s with a ‘b’—end up in rivers, landfills, and crops,” Morrissey says. He takes a moment to describe the detrimental effects of a plastic bag that gets into a cotton bale. “The whole bale could be ruined.”
Did he look to D.C.’s bag tax in developing the legislation?
The “genesis” for Morrissey’s bag-reduction passion came not from the District, but from Ireland. After a stint living in Ireland and seeing the success of its 20 pence bag tax, Morrissey was convinced that Virginians could also change their habits. He “can’t remember” if D.C.’s 5 cent tax was among the 30 policies he researched for the bill.
Why 20 cents?
Morrissey took his inspiration again from the Irish. “Twenty pence, 20 cents,” he says. “It wasn’t any more far-reaching than that.”
Would the proposed tax apply to retail stores?
“It’s just convenience stores and grocery stores at this juncture,” Morrissey says. The tax wouldn’t apply to anything that had “a handle on a thicker plastic bag, like at Macy’s.”
Who’s for it?
According to Morrissey, his constituents “love” his proposal. “I have heard nothing negative, only positive,” he says. Other delegates have stated their support for bag taxes, including Del. Adam Ebbin of Alexandria, who is proposing his own nickel tax on plastic and paper bags for the third year in a row.
Morrissey and Ebbin both say they have come up against opposition from the Virginia Retails Merchants Association.
When will the vote be?
Morrissey thinks the bill will come to a vote in late January.