I'm very hopeful that we'll get SB 2511 passed this session. You might have heard about this bill-putting a 10 cent fee on every plastic and paper bag given out by retailers. We got very close to passing similar legislation last year. If it becomes law, we would become the first state in the nation to charge a fee for these bags. This is a great way to clean up litter and protect our marine life. Neighbor Island counties have already taken a big step forward by banning plastic bags. What we're trying to do is take it one step further by putting a fee on paper bags that are expensive and unnecessarily kill trees. It's very rare and almost too good to be true to have retailers, like Safeway and Times, Retail Merchants of Hawai"i and the environmentalists on board in support of SB 2511. It's an added plus this session that we're planning to dedicate funding to the Department of Land and Natural Resources to help with the Governor's Watershed Restoration program. This bill is a win-win and I'm making it one of my top priorities this session. I'm sorry if some of you have heartburn about this bill. The fact is we use 400 million plastic and 20 million paper bags each year, and as the chair of the Senate Energy and Environment committee, I'm doing everything I can to get us off foreign oil, plus keep the aina clean. For you pet owners and others who reuse your plastic bags, there are some exemptions to the bill, such as produce bags, meat/bakery bags, etc.
I want to clarify that this is a fee, not a tax. If you bring your reusable bag to the store, you won't need to buy any plastic bags. As one constituent pointed out to me, he thinks it's a great idea. He said he plans to carry his cooler and a box in the car. When he goes shopping, he'll have the cashier put all the groceries back into his cart, then he'll wheel it out to the car, and load up!