Before the state budget was passed, we talked about legislation that only needed the governor's signature to become law and impose a 5 cents per bag "fee." The store owners would keep one penny and the other 4 would go to the state government.

The idea was to nickel and dime us into buying those huge thick reusable totes and carry them everywhere we might need to run in to a store. Yet they were counting on a huge number of us not complying and choosing to pay the fee, which really is a tax. How do I know? Because as they hastily slapped this legislation together and pushed it through the Senate and Assembly they were counting on $23.4 million collected from this bag scheme. That a lot of non-compliance.

But the news gets worse. A progressive governor such as Phil Murphy mysteriously deleted the language from the state budget but hasn't signed nor vetoed the bill. Many in the know believe this is a signal that he has deeper plans to ban plastic bags altogether. State legislators and environmental groups are pushing Murphy to be more draconian and sign a re-written version of the bill that would impose a fee only temporarily. After a few years New Jersey would then go to an all out ban on plastic bags in stores. No choice whatsoever. They want what California did; eventually banning all plastic bags and charging a 10 cent tax (they'll call it a fee) on paper bags.

Ed Potosnak, executive director of the NJ League of Conservation Voters, says, "The changes that need to be made to this bill are really critical otherwise we're not doing much to solve the problem." Valerie Vainieri Huttle, the assemblywoman who wrote the original bag bill, indicated she's all in on making it far stricter. "I'm fully on board with phasing in a ban. The intent has always been to change the behavior of consumers."

The intent has always been to change the behavior of consumers.

So in other words force us. Consumers want to get goods home from market in the least cumbersome manner and stores want to satisfy consumers' wants and needs. But here's the government deciding they know better than either. They will insert themselves between the two and pass a law drastically changing the way business operates and consumers behave, based largely on the myth that plastic bags are killing our environment in a far more drastic way than what is true.

In a NJ101.5 poll asking if people wanted the original legislation charging a 5 cent fee per bag, 88% responded no. People here don't want this. But you know what life is like in New Jersey. It's not about what we want. It's about what they can get away with.

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