Dallas Morning News
By Robert Wilonsky
On January 1, Dallas retailers will begin charging their customers five cents for every single-use plastic and paper bag they carry out of their stores. And for now, at least, the association representing those retailers does not intend to sue Dallas City Hall over that ordinance — despite Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s opinion last week that such bag fees are against state law.
“Obviously things can change, but that’s our decision, and that’s Kroger’s decision,” says Kroger spokesman Gary Huddleston, the immediate past chair of the Texas Retailers Association. Individual members of the TRA may indeed choose to sue the city, he says, and the TRA’s executive leadership has not taken a formal vote on the matter. But, says Hudddleston, “the current opinion of the Texas Retailers Association is we would not bring a lawsuit.”
Instead, he and TRA’s board hopes the city council will vote to repeal the bag fee before it goes into effect at the beginning of the year. That’s unlikely to happen following the yearlong debate that preceded the March vote, but anything could happen: Sources say city officials have spent the last week discussing next steps following Abbott’s opinion, which also says that outright bans are likely legal so long as they weren’t passed to keep plastic bags out of city landfills.
Dallas City Council member Dwaine Caraway, who first pushed for a full-on bag ban, says the city will “stand firm” with the existing ordinance. But he also says “I don’t believe ‘em” when the TRA says it won’t sue the city.”
“It’s smart for them not to sue,” says Caraway. “The attorney general’s opinion was that he felt the bag fee was illegal. Well, OK. So if the bag fee is illegal but banning the bags is not illegal, all we have to do is, if we’re sued, do an outright ban. Be careful what you ask for.”
Says Huddleston, Kroger “has a great relationship with the city” — it sponsors various 1500 Marilla-created events, and donated school supplies to the Dallas Independent School District — and the grocery giant doesn’t want to damage that relationship with costly and potentially ugly litigation.
“But when January comes and a customers walked into Kroger and is charged a nickel a bag, that’s when they will see the impact of what the city council has done,” he says. “Most people think this affect us, Walmart, Tom Thumb, etc., but it will hit the small retailers too. … And there is an election in May, and that may be a factor come election time. For now, though, we think the Dallas City Council should do the right thing and repeal the ordinance since it conflicts with state law.”