Assembly speaker: Delay New York City plastic bag fee

Markets Associated Press

New York City's impending fee on plastic shopping bags appears headed for the garbage, or at least the recycling bin, after state Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie on Friday said lawmakers would soon vote on legislation to postpone it.

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Heastie, a Bronx Democrat, said his chamber would vote Tuesday on legislation to delay the city's plan to provide time to study alternatives.

"We have heard from many constituents concerned about the financial burden," Heastie said in a statement. "I look forward to working with environmental advocates, Mayor de Blasio, members of the City Council, and community leaders to develop an overall solution to this issue."

The state Senate has already voted to stop the fee entirely, suggesting there is broad agreement in Albany that it should at least be put on hold. Critics say the fee is an example of city government overreach and will be a burden for poor and middle-class New Yorkers already struggling with a high cost of living.

Under the city's plan, starting later this month, consumers will pay 5 cents or more for single-use plastic shopping bags. Store owners will keep the money from the fee, which is intended to encourage the use of reusable bags and decrease litter.

De Blasio faced withering criticism of the bag fee Monday when he appeared at a legislative budget hearing in Albany. The mayor defended the move by noting that the city plans to distribute free reusable bags to residents. Also, consumers using food stamps won't have to pay the fee.

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"It's about protecting the earth," de Blasio said at the hearing. "If we continue to use petroleum-based products when we don't need them we are only exacerbating climate change."

Several cities around the country, including Los Angeles, Washington D.C. and Chicago, have either banned single-use plastic bags or imposed a fee.

De Blasio's legislative critics said the city should have expanded plastic bag recycling efforts or considered incentives for the use of reusable bags before approving the fee.