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Local Lawmakers Across New York Urge Cuomo Not To Overturn Plastic Bag Ban

Warn preemption would set dangerous precedent, harm local experimentation


NEW YORK – Nearly 60 elected officials from more than 40 cities and counties across New York called on Governor Cuomo to veto a bill that would nullify New York City’s local law, roll back progress to protect the environment, and set a dangerous precedent for Albany to preempt local laws in all jurisdictions across New York State.  New York City passed a law last year imposing a 5-cent fee on paper and plastic bags, and more than a dozen other jurisdictions in New York state have passed similar limitations.

“The proposed state legislation also unnecessarily prevents experimentation at the local level, the most effective way to gather information to inform statewide policy decisions,” write the lawmakers in the letter. “We would welcome pro-active, statewide legislation that would help solve the plastic bag problem. However, in the absence of a statewide solution, legislation that would prevent localities from voting democratically to adopt solutions of their own would be a large step backward for the environment.”

The letter includes legislators from New York City and across the state. It was organized by Elected Officials to Protect New York, a group of local elected officials focused on environmentally sound policy, and the New York State Progressive Elected Officials Network, a network of local legislators in New York.

Cities that have put fees on plastic bags have experienced a dramatic reduction in waste, freeing up storm drains and reducing litter on city streets. The New York bill (A. 4883/S. 4158), which has been passed by both the Assembly and State Senate, nullifies New York City’s law, unnecessarily and inappropriately threatening the New York City Council’s home rule authority. The bill’s overreach will set a precedent for Albany to preempt local legislators all across the State from implementing fees on paper and plastic bags, limiting the policy options available to reduce their environmental impact.

“In each of these places, local elected officials voted democratically to adopt their policies. Good environmental policy, and good public policy in general, requires this kind of innovation and experimentation at the local level,” the lawmakers continued in their letter. “These approaches can provide valuable information on each law’s strengths and weaknesses, advancing the pursuit for more effective, efficient and data-driven policy solutions. Prohibiting localities from adopting per-bag charges would not just hamper good local policy, but would limit the State’s ability to learn from these experiments and implement effective policy down the road.”

"With the federal government set to eliminate hard-fought climate protections, the fate of our environment rests with state and local policymakers," said Brad Lander, New York City Council Member and Local Progress Board Chair. "Yet Assembly Bill No. 4883 and Senate Bill No. 4158 would prevent New York City from pursuing an effective policy that has reduced environmentally harmful plastic and single-use bag waste all across the world. Now is a time for innovation at the local level to protect the environment and address climate change, not for rolling back the progress we've made through thoughtful, deliberative policy making. I strongly urge all New Yorkers to oppose Albany’s attempts to consign NYC to the proliferation of plastic bags in our waste stream for years to come."

"The Campaign to Defend Local Solutions is proud to support the efforts of New York local elected officials standing up for their constituents," said Mike Alfano, Director of Campaign to Defend Local Solutions. "Similar attacks on local government by state legislatures are occurring every day across the country. We will stand up, join together, and fight back against heavy-handed state government preemption of local rights anytime, anywhere — because silencing one city's voices silences us all."

"With dysfunction in Washington, now more than ever, we need to empower our local governments to adopt common-sense solutions, not block them." said Greg Young, City of Gloversville Supervisor and Co-Coordinator of Elected Officials to Protect New York, “Protecting local communities’ ability to adopt common-sense local solutions is the hallmark of our democracy."

"It is disappointing that the state would try to strike down commonsense policies that have been passed in every corner of our state. The environment will be under threat in coming years and states, cities, and towns must defend it in every way we can," said Jean Kesser, Syracuse City Councilmember. "Governor Cuomo must reject this law that would cause incalculable harm in our communities.”

"This bill is an infringement on municipal home rule," said Carl Chipman, Town of Rochester Supervisor. "It goes way beyond bags. This is a bipartisan issue for elected officials across the state." 



Local Progress is a network of progressive local elected officials from around the country united by our shared commitment to equal justice under law, shared prosperity, sustainable and livable cities, and good government that serves the public interest. Local Progress is staffed by the Center for Popular Democracy.


The Center for Popular Democracy promotes equity, opportunity, and a dynamic democracy in partnership with innovative base-building organizations, organizing networks and alliances, and progressive unions across the country. CPD builds the strength and capacity of democratic organizations to envision and advance a pro-worker, pro-immigrant, racial justice agenda.


Elected Officials to Protect New York is a statewide, non-partisan network of local lawmakers in New York State committed to protecting the economies, public health, and environment for the communities we are elected to serve.


Campaign to Defend Local Solutions is a network of elected officials, Individuals, and organizations from across the country, including elected officials from thirteen different states and Washington D.C.



Asya Pikovsky, apikovsky@populardemocracy.org207-522-2442