Arizona Attorney General: Bisbee Bag Ban Violates State Law

Published: Tuesday, October 24, 2017 - 4:40pm
Updated: Wednesday, October 25, 2017 - 7:13am
(Photo by Stina Sieg - KJZZ)
Carrie Behan, an artist-in-residence at the Bisbee Central School Project, takes reusable bags to deliver around town free in 2014.

A state attorney general report found a southeast Arizona city’s ban on plastic bags violates state law.

Bisbee has 30 days to resolve the issue or risk losing state-shared funding.

“My job as attorney general is to enforce state law,” Attorney General Mark Brnovich said in a statement. “Regardless of policy arguments for why the bag ban exists, the city of Bisbee does not have the authority to ignore state law and reach its policy goal by illegally imposing regulatory mandates on private citizens and businesses.” 

Bisbee banned the use of plastic bags in 2014 and added a 5 cent fee for paper bags.

Mayor David Smith called the law a “win-win” that cleaned up the city’s streets and addressed concerns about the environmental impact of the bags.

“You can go anyplace in Bisbee and walk around, and you don’t have plastic bags blowing and hanging in trees and hanging off of the cactus and so forth which we did before,” Smith said.

RELATED: Bisbee Kicks Off Plastic Bag Ban

Smith said the City Council will meet in executive session and with its attorney to determine the next steps.

“An option is defy it, another option is to ask that a stay be placed while we litigate it,” Smith said. “We’ll make those decisions as a council and move on from there.”

State law prohibits cities and towns from regulating disposable containers. Smith argues Bisbee’s law can stand over the state’s because it is a local issue limited to the city boundaries. The attorney general’s investigation said Arizona courts have only acknowledged two areas of “purely local interest,” city elections and the disposal of municipal real estate.

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