Montgomery councilman will table bag tax bill -- Gazette.Net


County Councilman Roger Berliner (D-Dist. 1) will put off any action on a bill that would make changes to Montgomery County’s bag tax law, agreeing to requests by County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) that the law be given more time so staff can gather information on its effects.

Berliner, of Bethesda, sent a letter to Leggett Wednesday agreeing to delay any action on the bill so more data can be gathered.

“[T]here is no question that more data is better than less if we are to make educated decisions with regard to this matter,” Berliner wrote in the letter.

Berliner’s bill would only apply the bag tax to stores that make at least 2 percent of their gross sales from food.

The current bag tax, which went into effect in January 2012, applies the 5-cent per bag fee to virtually all businesses.

At a meeting Monday of the council’s Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee, Berliner suggested he wasn’t willing to wait.

“We are going to move forward with this,” he told a Leggett staffer who had expressed the executive’s desire to give the tax at least two years to judge its effectiveness in limiting the number of bags that are found in the county’s rivers and streams.

The committee, which Berliner chairs, voted 2-1 to send the bill to the full council.

Berliner said Wednesday that Leggett told him in a conversation Tuesday that he was keeping an open mind on the issue and was prepared to reassess the scope of the bag tax if the data support it.

That led Berliner to decide there was no need to act immediately, he said.

Along with gathering more data, the county also wants to do a survey to look at response from residents and retailers to the tax.

Berliner asked in his letter that any surveys look at the scope of the tax rather than its general effectiveness.

“Any future survey and analysis should explore the effectiveness of the tax in changing behavior as it relates to department stores, clothing stores, hair salons, and other retail establishments that were not included in either the District of Columbia’s law or any other jurisdiction in the country that applies such a tax,” he wrote.

The District of Columbia imposed a bag tax in 2010.

Berliner asked that county staff have their results prepared by mid-2014, so the committee can review them in September of that year.