AG: Bisbee's plastic bag ban breaks state law

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(Source: 3TV/CBS 5 file photo) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5 file photo)
(Source: Natalie Board via 123RF) (Source: Natalie Board via 123RF)

Attorney General Mark Brnovich ruled Tuesday that Bisbee's plastic ban violates state law.

The southeastern Arizona city now faces steep financial penalties if leaders do not reverse the prohibition within 30 days.

The AG's legal decision follows a complaint filed last month by Sen. Warren Petersen, a Republican who lives in Gilbert. A 2016 state law (SB1487)  allows individual legislators to require reviews of local laws for compliance with state law (ARS § 41-194.01).

The southeastern Arizona city's ordinance, which was established four years ago, prohibits retail establishments from providing customers with single-use plastic carryout bags and says recycled paper bags can be provided only for a fee of at least 5 cents each. Under Bisbee's ordinance, store owners can be fined up to $500 -- per violation.

City leaders say the code has made their streets cleaner.

However, the GOP-controlled Legislature passed a law (HB2131) last year outlawing cities from regulating disposable items like plastic bags and cups (ARS § 9-500.38).

[MORE: Arizona politics]

“My job as Attorney General is to enforce state law,”  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.” 

Arizona law (SB1487) requires the withholding of state-shared revenue from cities that refuse to rescind ordinances deemed to violate state law.

[RELATED: AZ bill aims to prohibit cities from banning plastic bags (March 17, 2015)]

"This was the fifth investigation triggered by a member of the Legislature under SB1487 since its passage in 2016," according to the Attorney General's Office.

[PDF: Report by Arizona Attorney General's Office]

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