Bag Tax Review & More

The Montgomery County Council’s Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment (T and E) Committee at 2 p.m. on Thursday, March 21, will hold a worksession on the one-year analysis of the county’s five-cent tax on disposable bags. Among the aspects to be discussed is a possible exclusion of the tax at clothing stores and other non-grocery stores. The committee also will address the possibility of banning plastic bags outright, while continuing the tax on paper bags.

The T and E Committee, which is chaired by Roger Berliner and includes Councilmembers Nancy Floreen and Hans Riemer, will meet in the Seventh Floor Hearing Room of the Council Office Building, which is located at 100 Maryland Ave. in Rockville. The meeting will be televised live by County Cable Montgomery (CCM—Cable Channel 6 on Comcast and RCN, Channel 30 on Verizon) and can be viewed via streaming through the County web site at

The bag tax went into effect on Jan. 1, 2012, imposing a five-cent excise tax on carryout bags provided to customers at specified retail establishments. The retailer keeps one cent of the tax for administrative expenses.

In the 12 months of calendar year 2012, the county collected a total of $2.3 million from the bag tax. More than 57.6 million bags were taxed. Collection of taxes increased dramatically as the program became known. In January 2012, 548 retailers had registered. In December 2012, 1011 retailers had registered to collect the tax.

In discussing whether the county should consider changes to the program, the committee will hear a report on other jurisdictions that impose some type of bag tax. A number of jurisdictions in 14 states have bag taxes in place. One jurisdiction—Carpinteria, Calif.—has banned both paper and plastic bags.

The T and E Committee also will hold a worksession on residential and commercial energy efficiency initiatives.

At 9:30 a.m. in the Third Floor Council Hearing Room, the Health and Human Services (HHS) Committee, which is chaired by George Leventhal and includes Councilmembers Nancy Navarro and Craig Rice, and the Planning, Housing and Economic Development (PHED) Committee, which is chaired by Councilmember Floreen and will meet jointly for a discussion on the role of non-profits in the County. A recent report—“Beyond Clarity: Non-profit Business in Montgomery County”—examined three ways in which nonprofits contribute to the County’s economy. The report looked at wages and spending; workforce development and economic empowerment; and leveraging the power of non-profits.

At 10:15 a.m., the HHS Committee will meet to address health and social challenges faced by the Continental African Community in the County. The African and Caribbean populations in the County comprise about 15 percent of foreign born County residents. The report shows that immigrants from Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone account for a significant number of African immigrants to the County. Although affordable housing is one of the biggest needs for these immigrants, the report cites these immigrants also say there is a need for more bus drivers who speak both English and French.

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