City Desk

D.C. Repubs Find Typo in Bag Bill

Local Republicans think they've scored a political gotcha on the bag tax.

A letter addressed to D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray points out that the bag-tax legislation that went into effect earlier this year seems to have made an error in defining what a "reusable" plastic bag is.

The error lies in the difference between a millimeter and a 'mil'—an industry-standard unit of thickness equivalent to a thousandth of an inch. A millimeter, one-thousandth of a meter, is much thicker. The typical disposable plastic grocery bag is a mere half-mil thick; dry-cleaning bags get into three-quarter mil territory. A 2.25 mm plastic bag would be equivalent to 88.6 mil.

In several minutes of Googling, LL was not able to find a purveyor for plastic bags anywhere near that thick. Now 2.25 mil, on the other hand, is a little over a half-millimeter thick, and LL found plenty of sources for "eco-friendly" reusable bags of that type.

D.C. GOP interns are distributing the letter around the John A. Wilson Building today, along with sample pieces of 2.25 mm plastic—which "similar to the thickness of a two CDs laid on top of each other," according to the letter. (Note the stray "a"—legislators have no monopoly on typos.)

"It is our hope and the hope of the District's business community that the DC Council will be more thorough when passing legislation that will dramatically impact the lives and jobs of thousands of District residents," reads the letter, penned by D.C. GOP chair Robert Kabel.

Charles Allen, chief of staff for Ward 6 councilmember and bag-bill introducer Tommy Wells, says the 2.25 mm spec didn't originate with the D.C. Council. "We pulled that specific language from other jurisdictions. We didn't pull that out of the air," he says, later providing model language from legislation in California, Texas, and Hawaii.

He also points out that the plastics industry, which fought the bill tooth and nail, never mentioned the millimeter/mil issue. "When the American Chemistry Council came and testified, you'd think they would have brought it up if it was a real concern," he says.

What are the practical impacts of this error? Slight, if any. The legislative definition comes into play in defining what kind of bags are exempt from the five-cent bag fee and what type of bags can be purchased and distributed with the fee's proceeds. Virtually all of the reusable bags that LL has seen handed out in recent months—including those distributed by D.C. Republicans—are made of some sort of cloth, not plastic. And all of the reusable bags distributed by the District government thus far, Allen says, have been made of cloth.

But, hey, a gotcha's a gotcha!

"As you will discover, this level of thickness almost makes it impossible to produce a reusable bag and comply with District law," Kabel writes. "We hope that in addition to being more thorough, the Council will not impose fines on the District's business community due to an error that originated from the Council."

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Comments

  1. #1

    It's nice to see the DCGOP is focussed on measures commisurate with the size of their impact in local politics.
    Keep up the good work!

  2. #2

    If the Republicans really wanted to put themselves to good use, all they would have to do is advocate FOR better recycling laws and more enforcement, because the Democrats sure as hell ain’t (bag tax the sole exception)! They would do well staking out that issue for themselves – really stand out and all.

    Think about it DC Republicans – change course, be bold. Stand for something. Stand out!

  3. #3

    Yeah, be conservative.

  4. #4

    Seriously, DC GOP, propose something. You aren't going to get anyone elected for the rest of the decade at least, so at least make a difference by proposing legislation that you thing would benefit the District.

    Bitching and moaning is all well and good, but it won't convince anyone that there is a value in having elected Republicans.

  5. #5

    Seriously, DC GOP, propose something. You aren't going to get anyone elected for the rest of the decade at least, so at least make a difference by proposing legislation that you thing would benefit the District.

    Bitching and moaning is all well and good, but it won't convince anyone that there is a value in having elected Republicans.

  6. #6

    Let's see, Bag TAX! = Polluted Snow Melting into Anocosta River = Democratic Controled City = Hypocrisy!

  7. #7

    Correction all of the bags handed out and sold so far are made of NWPP (Plastic). So what thickness are we supposed to use?

  8. #8

    Maybe the narrow minded people of DC need to look else wear, then the crooked, self serving Democrats in power now! DCGOP here is your chance to shine, don't blow this chance!

  9. #9

    Hey, Rick, where's the Anocosta River? I've been Googling it for hours and haven't found it.

    Dakota's right, though. My DC-provided bag is made of polypropylene (resin ID code #5, the number inside the recycling symbol), not "cloth."

    Actually, that raises an issue: "cloth" (in common usage) can include any fabric, including synthetic ones such as polyester. Polyester is, basically, PET -- the same stuff they make plastic soda bottles from. So, thick plastic or thin plastic: pick your poison.

  10. #10

    But you REUSE one type, and the other type is a big fat waste. Get it, idiots?

  11. #11

    The most disturbing thing I feel in this process is not a mistake was made by Mr. Wells, we all make them, but the role he and his Chief of Staff think lobbyists must play in his policy making.

    While it is disappointing that Wells Chief of Staff Charles Allen admitted that they just lifted the language from failed, poorly drafted, lobbyist driven bills in other jurisdictions (no other city or state has a tax), it was shocking for him to say that it was the responsibility of the lobbyists for the American Chemistry Council to scrub the legislation at a hearing and to, in effect, do Mr. Wells due diligence.

    For Mr. Wells to rely on lobbyists -- in this case on both sides of the issue -- to "stop me before I poorly legislate again" -- speaks volumes as to his approach to representation and his staff's attention to their jobs.

    (PS, I work in DC and after the bag tax I no longer shop in DC during my lunch hour at say CVS to pick up a few things -- wait now to I get home -- and get a bag.)

  12. #12

    Councilman Wells, or should I say Comrade Wells put this whole thing together like slopping hogs you are right, 'Chris'. The other council members, opps! there I go again!, I mean comrades of the Polit Bureau went blindly along, just like the citizens of DC.

    As I have said before, watch and see this bag TAX money go somewere else, and not for the Anacosta!

  13. #13

    Chris, so in other words you are living proof that the bag tax works. Fewer bags! Good. Thanks.

    Rick - comment is so rick.

  14. #14

    Sorry -- I wasn't clear. I go home to Virginia where I get a bag for free. I no longer shop in the City as much as I once did.

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