Dallas Sued Over Plastic Bag Fee

The problem, as we wrote the day after Dallas' new plastic bag ordinance went into effect, is that the ordinance doesn't ban bags, and now the city of Dallas could pay for it.

A group of single-use plastic bag manufacturers has sued the city, claiming that the Dwaine Caraway-shepherded bag ordinance violates Texas law, largely because it is a de facto sales tax.

The suit points to an August 2014 opinion issued by then Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott that said outright bans on plastic bags might be legal, but charging fees for bags, as called for in the Dallas ordinance, was likely illegal. In January, before he was even inaugurated, Abbott decried Texas big cities, citing bag ordinances specifically, for threatening to "Californiaize" the state.

According to the companies filing the suit, the nickel -- minimum, some 7-Elevens are charging as much as a quarter -- required of Dallasites to get a single-use plastic bag "raises more revenue than is reasonably necessary to subsidize the city's efforts to ensure compliance with the ordinance." Dallas can't do that, the companies argue, because it's already maxed out its sales tax rate. Even if Dallas had not, the suit says, any additional sales taxes must be approved by voters. The bag ban wasn't.

"The plastic retail bag manufacturing and recycling industries support thousands of Texans with high-paying, quality jobs they need to support their families. For the sake of our workers, the hardworking residents of Dallas, and Texas' overall economy, to which we contribute millions every year, we are eager to resolve this matter once and for all," Mark Daniels, Hilex Poly senior vice president of sustainability said in a statement.

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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young