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EDITORIAL: Ban on ban is a bad idea

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Our opinion: South Dakota lawmakers should vote against a bill that would allow the state to prohibit town and county agencies from setting their own rules about plastic.

 

If you and your family decide to stop using plastic bags and plastic straws, should the state tell you that you can’t do that? Most people would say, “no, it’s my choice.”

What about the citizens of a city? If a majority of the residents decide to stop using plastic bags and plastic straws in their city, should the state tell them that they can’t do that? Of course not.

But some legislators think so.

Senate Bill 54 would prohibit government entities in South Dakota from adopting ordinances that would ban straws and “auxiliary containers,” which the bill defines as bags, cups, bottles, packages, containers or other packaging made out of cloth, paper, plastic, cardboard, corrugated material, aluminum, glass or recycled material that can either be reusable or single use. 

Sen. John Wiik, R-Big Stone City, filed the measure in the 2020 Legislature and 21 legislators have signed on as cosponsors. The Senate Commerce and Energy Committee passed the measure Monday morning on a 4-2 vote, sending it to the floor for action by the full Senate.

This bill actually updates an existing law that says no other city or county can restrict the use of plastic beverage containers, garbage bags or plastic packing materials. The expanded ban would apply to any “local unit of government” – a county, municipality, school district, special district or other political subdivision in the state.

Let’s be clear: this is not about whether banning straws or plastic shopping bags is good for the environment. Some believe it is ecologically responsible to end their use. Some believe that’s ridiculous. Let’s just put that aside for a moment.

The issue is local control; whether a city or county can make that determination for their citizens. Preempting that option runs counter to the concept of self-governance and self-determination.

Put simply, if the city of Freeman, Marion, Menno or Olivet, Hutchinson County or Turner County, concludes that a ban on these products is in the best interest of their residents — whether to protect the environment or cut down on litter — who is the state of South Dakota to tell them they can’t? Undoubtedly, a ban like this would go to a vote of the people. Again, if that’s what the majority of the people in those cities or county want, who is the state of South Dakota to tell them they can’t?

Local control has been a longstanding popular mantra in the South Dakota Legislature. It should apply to this measure as well; legislators should reject SB54.

 

The Freeman Courier editorial reflects the opinion of publisher Jeremy Waltner and former publisher Tim L. Waltner