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Fees for single-use bags backed in Nassau

Witnesses at a public hearing of the county legislature urged lawmakers to consider a bill to charge shoppers 5 cents for single-use bags.

A cashier hands a shopper a plastic bag

A cashier hands a shopper a plastic bag at Stew Leonard's in Farmingdale on Jan. 5. Photo Credit: Johnny Milano

Representatives of environmental groups and the supermarket industry urged Nassau County legislators Wednesday to schedule a public hearing on a bill to charge shoppers 5 cents for single-use bags.

“Stop stalling the bill and let it have a public hearing,” said Jordan Christensen, program coordinator at Citizens Campaign for the Environment, a nonprofit advocacy group based in Farmingdale. What “we don’t want to do is play hide and seek with this legislation.”

Christensen was among a half dozen people who testified Wednesday during the public comment period of a meeting of the county legislature.

The bill, sponsored by Legis. Debra Mulé (D-Freeport) and filed this month by the legislature’s Democratic minority, aims to encourage shoppers to bring reusable bags instead of taking single-use paper or plastic bags at checkout. Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, a Democrat, backs the initiative.

The proposed measure resembles laws passed in Suffolk County and the City of Long Beach. Another bill is moving through the State Legislature but is opposed by the Republican majority in the state Senate.

Legis. Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park), presiding officer of the Nassau Legislature, has criticized the county proposal as “a burden on taxpayers.” Nicolello said the GOP majority had no plans to schedule a public hearing or bring a bill to committee.

“The most immediate reason is that there is legislation going through the State Legislature,” Nicolello said. “Why would we pass something that would be pre-empted within a month?”

Nassau residents had asked lawmakers to consider a local law as a way to prevent single-use bags from polluting waterways on Long Island.

Jay M. Peltz, general counsel for the Food Industry Alliance of New York State, which represents the grocery industry, told legislators the group supports the bill.

Peltz said plastic bag usage is down 70 percent in Suffolk County since the law went into effect Jan. 1.

“We look forward to working with government stakeholders in moving this legislation along,” Peltz said.

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