Texas Senator files bill that would let municipalities ban single-use water bottles on city property. | Dallas Observer


Single-Use Water Bottle Bill Aims to Aid Environment, Local Control

Sen. Nathan Johnson's Senate Bill 551 is just as much about local control as it is about water bottles.
Sen. Nathan Johnson's Senate Bill 551 is just as much about local control as it is about water bottles. Stuart Franklin/Getty
State Sen. Nathan Johnson, a Dallas Democrat, has filed a bill to allow municipalities to ban the sale of single-use plastic water bottles on golf courses they own. This isn’t completely unheard of.

Last year, Somerset County in New Jersey approved a ban on the sale of single-use plastic bottles on its golf courses to reduce plastic use and to improve the environment and, possibly, local golf facilities as well. The South Lake Tahoe City Council in California passed a similar ban in October. Just a couple of years earlier, New York's then-Mayor Bill de Blasio signed an executive order to ban the sale of single-use plastic bottles at city facilities, including golf courses.

Johnson filed Senate Bill 551 to allow municipalities to do something similar in Texas. The bill wasn’t his idea, however, and it’s not entirely about reducing the use of plastic. It also has a lot to do with local government control.

The Dallas senator told the Observer in an emailed statement that high-school golfers from across the state approached him to explain they’re disappointed seeing municipal golf courses strewn with litter and overflowing trash cans.

“I found it inspiring that a group of young golfers-turned-advocates would undertake to change public habits, so I filed their bill,” Johnson said.

The Dallas Park and Recreation Department operates several privately managed golf courses in the city.

Sure, the bill, if passed, could reduce litter and plastic pollution. It wouldn’t be hard to accommodate such a ban either. Some golf courses already provide coolers and fountains for players to refill their own reusable bottles. But Johnson said the bill would also address regulatory uncertainty felt at the local level.

“As the Legislature continues to insist that municipal governments cede regulatory authority, there is by now uncertainty, and perhaps apprehension, when it comes to municipal authority over matters like this,” Johnson said. “The bill removes the doubt, makes it clear that a city can ban single-use plastic water bottles at municipal golf courses.”

Johnson’s SB 551 is a response to the state’s hostility toward local control, which could be stripped from municipalities through other bills filed being called “super-preemption” legislation.

For example, Muenster Republican Sen. Drew Springer filed Senate Bill 149, which would prevent cities from using ordinances to regulate commercial enterprise. There’s also Senate Bill 814 (which has a House companion bill, which was filed by Conroe Republican Sen. Brandon Creighton. It would prevent cities from adopting local rules “unless explicitly authorized by statute.”

It’s this hostility toward local government control that Johnson said makes his bill necessary and is the reason it will be hard to pass in the Legislature. His bill hasn’t gotten a hearing yet, but if it’s enacted, it would take effect on Sept. 1.
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Jacob Vaughn, a former Brookhaven College journalism student, has written for the Observer since 2018, first as clubs editor. More recently, he's been in the news section as a staff writer covering City Hall, the Dallas Police Department and whatever else editors throw his way.
Contact: Jacob Vaughn

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