Kansas senators pass plastic bag bill that would nullify Lawrence ordinance; police dog bill also on governor’s desk

photo by: Clay Wirestone/Kansas Reflector

Senate lawmakers on Wednesday approved a ban that would stop local governments from regulating plastic use.

TOPEKA — Republican lawmakers in Topeka are trying to snuff out Lawrence’s reign as a plastic-bag-free city. If history is a guide, the GOP likely won’t have enough votes to overturn a veto from the governor.

For the fourth year in a row, lawmakers worked to prohibit municipalities from regulating the bags, straws, cups, bottles and other single-use containers through House Bill 2446. The bill passed the House 72-51 last year, and Senate lawmakers on Wednesday voted 24-16 to send the legislation to the governor’s desk.

Lawrence implemented a plastic bag ban on March 1 due to environmental concerns over the state’s plastic pollution, potential microplastic contamination from bags degrading and animal deaths from eating the bags, among other concerns. The city allows exemptions for other plastic products, such as produce bags and garment bags.

Lawrence’s ban added urgency to Republican-driven efforts to prevent similar bans from going into effect.

“It can take thousands of years for a plastic bag to decompose and that seems to be the case for this bill as well,” Sen. Cindy Holscher, an Overland Park Democrat, said. “Citizens want local governments to make decisions that reflect their local and unique communities. This bill violates the spirit of local control that is ingrained in our constitution.”

Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat, vetoed the bill last year, and is likely to do so again. With 27 votes in the Senate and 84 in the House needed to override her veto, Republican lawmakers likely won’t have the support to force through the ban.

Police animals

Another bill bound for the governor’s desk would increase criminal and financial penalties for people who injure or kill a police dog or horse.

House Bill 2583, given final approval Wednesday by a 25-15 Senate vote, would make inflicting harm on law enforcement dogs or horses a felony punishable by a minimum of 90 days in jail and a minimum fine of $10,000. Kansas statute currently requires a minimum of 30 days in jail and a fine of more than $500 and less than $5,000 for this crime.

In previous debate, other lawmakers have pointed out the potential race-based implications of the bill. Rep. Ford Carr, D-Wichita, mentioned the historical use of police dogs to harm people fighting for equality during the Civil Rights movement.

In addition, the House bill would make the perpetrator who harmed or killed a police horse or dog responsible for restitution to the law enforcement agency, such as paying for the injured animal’s medical treatment, as well as funeral expenses if the animal dies, and the cost of replacing and training a new animal.

House lawmakers approved the bill 107-4 in early February. The bill now goes to Kelly.


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