“A dislike of state law is no justification for a municipality to violate it.”
Eleven Texas cities, identified by the Texas Supreme Court as being in violation of state law, received letters Monday from Attorney General Ken Paxton that their acts regarding waste management duties were illegal.
The cities had enacted illegal plastic bag mandates against Texas laws. The letters informed the various city mayors and council members that a recent Texas Supreme Court ruling declared Laredo’s bag ban illegal and that they were also forbidden from imposing their waste management duties and costs on citizens and retailers.
“The Texas Supreme Court declared that banning single-use plastic bags is illegal. Municipalities ignoring this law are unlawfully passing their duty to manage solid waste on to their residents and retailers in violation of settled Texas law,” Attorney General Paxton said. “A dislike of state law is no justification for a municipality to violate it.”
The letters were issued to the cities of Austin, Sunset Valley, Port Aransas, Laguna Vista, Fort Stockton, Eagle Pass, Corpus Christi, Brownsville, Kermit, Freer and South Padre Island to ensure awareness of the recent ruling and waste management responsibilities Texas law places on municipalities.
Texas’ Health and Safety Code prohibits making a rule to “prohibit, restrict, for solid waste management purposes, the sale or use of a container or package in a manner not authorized by state law.”
Retailers, such as H-E-B have introduced successful programs to promote healthy environmental practices in the state. They annually divert over 190,000 tons of waste from landfills through their recycling efforts. Their in-store recycling programs have allowed consumers to save over 310 million bags each year. Through their plastic bag recycling efforts the impact now exceeds over 6 million pounds annually.
H-E-B’s proactive stance has earned them various awards including the Texas Environmental Excellence Award for Innovative Operations & Management, “Take Care Of Texas” Certificate of Appreciation, “Keep Texas Beautiful” National Award and LEED Certification, including Gold for their facilities engineering and building practices.
“I commend the Texas Supreme Court for upholding the principle that no one is exempted from the rule of law. This ruling sends the unambiguous message to all local jurisdictions in Texas that they do not get to simply ignore laws they don’t agree with,” Attorney General Paxton said after the June 22 decision. “Municipalities violate the law when they unlawfully pass the burden of solid waste management to citizens and retailers through illegal bag bans. I hope that Laredo, Austin, and any other jurisdictions that have enacted illegal bag bans will take note and voluntarily bring their ordinances into compliance with state law. Should they decline to do so, I expect the ruling will be used to invalidate any other illegal bag bans statewide.”
When it passed the law in 1993, the Legislature wanted Texas cities to better manage their solid waste instead of eliminating that waste or just sending it to landfills. By enacting various bag bans and anti-consumer ordinances, cities ignore the law and shirk their responsibilities as waste managers.
Last year, the city of Kermit repealed its unlawful sales tax on single-use plastic bags rather than face a lawsuit from the attorney general’s office. And Attorney General Paxton dismissed a lawsuit against the city of Brownsville after it formally repealed its illegal sales tax on plastic bags.