ATLANTA — Legislation blocking cities and counties from enacting local bans on plastic bags passed the Senate Agriculture Committee Monday and is headed toward a vote in the full Senate.

Officials in Tybee Island and Athens have discussed a local ban over environmental concerns. For instance, sea turtles often eat the bags because they resemble jelly fish, which are part of their natural diet. However, they can choke on the bags and suffocate.
Other concerns are over the petrochemicals used in making the bags.

The committee approved Senate Bill 129 introduced by Sen. Tyler Harper, R-Ocilla. He said he wants to avoid the burden businesses with multiple locations face in California where dozens of counties have different versions of bans on various bags, boxes, Styrofoam cups and meal containers, and similar materials.

“This will prevent that regulatory mayhem,” he said.

The bill was supported by lobbyists from restaurant and grocery trade groups, and he announced backing from the packaging and paper industries as well. Opposition came from representatives of local governments that don’t want to lose their say in the matter and from the environmental group Sierra Club.

“We don’t see why we should be pre-empting our cities and counties,” said Mark Woodall, lobbyist for the 10,000-member Georgia chapter of the Sierra Club. He added the group’s concern about sea turtles and use of petroleum.

Sen. Bill Heath, R-Bremen, noted that the bill only says the same rules for use of packaging would apply statewide, not what those rules should be.

“Do you think Georgia as a state has less concern for the seat turtles than Tybee Island?” he asked Woodall.

Heath, though, didn’t recommend a statewide ban on plastic bags when he had the chance to amend Harper’s bill.

The measure still has to come before the full Senate and House and receive the governor’s signature to become law.

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