Legal Update

Latest on plastic bag regulations—and a note of caution

Plastic bag bans have been proposed by a handful of local governments around the state and the trend seems to be increasing. Keep an eye out for such regulatory activity in your coverage area to make sure proposals do not (intentionally or unintentionally) contain language that might be construed to restrict newspaper bags or wrappings.

By way of brief background, in 2010, the Florida Legislature pre-empted the regulation of plastic bags, thus preventing local governments from regulating in this area until it had the chance to consider DEP studies.  However, in 2017, the City of Coral Gables moved forward on its own and challenged that preemption by passing an ordinance that bans “single use carry out” plastic bags. The ordinance was challenged by the Florida Retail Federation but the trial judge rejected the challenge and said the state had dragged its feet too long in establishing rules and upheld Coral Gables’ ordinance. The judge’s ruling was appealed to the Third DCA and the matter is still pending before that appeals court.

Since that time, several other local governments have passed resolutions in support of banning certain plastic bags or have considered but postponed bans pending the outcome of the appellate case.  Further, at least one local government, the City of Gainesville, is currently actively finalizing a “single use, carry-out” plastic bag ban which passed its first reading in December.  Although Gainesville’s language is limited to “food service providers” and “retail establishments” that supply “carry-out” bags, and thus does not extend to newspaper bags, the City’s action does highlight concerns that other jurisdictions might pass broader language that could possibly be construed to outlaw newspaper bags.

As a result, it is recommended newspapers remain vigilant about local government activity in this area. If your city or county considers such a ban, be sure the language is not broad enough to include newspaper bags. Even better, support the ordinance including a specific exemption for such bags, as did the Coral Gables’ ordinance.  See sections 62-245(b)(4), 34-191(c)(6).

If you run into any local issues, feel free to call Sam.

Finally, regarding the latest state law developments, a Senate bill was filled a few weeks ago to do away with the state’s bag preemption. This bill likely will not move very far but we will be monitoring it.