Montgomery County Ordinance Advances to General Council Vote

By: Josh Kizler On March 15, 2011 Montgomery Councilmember and President Valerie Ervin introduced Bill 8-11, an excise tax on disposable carryout bags in Montgomery County.[1] The bill, introduced at the request of the County Executive Isiah Legget, would go into effect January 1, 2012, and impose a $0.05 tax “on certain carryout bags provided to customers at certain retail establishments”.[2] Montgomery County residents and businesses could expect results similar to those of neighboring Washington, D.C.’s bag ordinance, which included reduced litter and cost savings to businesses.[3] The Montgomery County ordinance was presented at a March 31st public hearing, during which interested parties had three minutes to voice opinions for or against the ordinance. The American Chemistry Council was present to argue its position against the ordinance, citing the successes of recycling and potential adverse economic impacts on both Maryland’s job market and already burdened families.[4] Representing the plastics industry, the ACC is threatened by such ordinances which could adversely impact the financial rewards of selling bags to wholesalers and retailers.

Ordinances similar to and including Montgomery County’s are often labeled “regressive taxes” by opponents because they supposedly cause undue burden on already struggling populations. However, revenues from the tax are planned to cover the costs of supplying seniors and others with free reusable bags, thereby reducing that burden, while other consumers can avoid the $.05 tax by using their own bags.[5] Revenues would also cover costs for water and litter cleanup, shifting the responsibility of publicly-funded litter clean-up to consumers.[6] Reducing the presence of plastic bags in Montgomery County waters could provide residents with a cleaner, more pleasant living environment. The ordinance was heavily modeled after Washington, D.C.’s fee, which was implemented on January 1, 2010 and has been referenced as causing an 80 percent drop in plastic bag use.[7] [8]

On April 4, 2011 the Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee advanced the bill with a two-to-one vote, and recommended a general council vote, which could turn the bill into law. The date for the vote has not yet been scheduled.

[1] See Memorandum of an April 4, 2011 council work session the ordinance:

[2] Supra

[3] David Nakamura, District businesses not harmed by bag tax, The Washington Post, February 24, 2011, at

[4] Supra

[5] Supra

[6] Supra

[7] See Anacostia River Clean Up and Protection Act (bag fee) at

[8] David Nakamura, District businesses not harmed by bag tax, The Washington Post, February 24, 2011, at


Contact Information:

Council President Valerie Ervin         (240) 777-7960

County Executive Isiah Legget          (240) 777-0311


For a Memorandum of the March 31st public hearing:


For articles on the ordinance:

Montgomery council committee advances bag tax, April 6, 2011, Erin Cunningham,

Leggett rolls out Montgomery bag tax, March 7, 2011, Brian Hughes,


For a fact sheet on the proposed ordinance: