Louisville Council Republicans Want to Toss Ban on Plastic Bags for Yard Waste

The members of the Louisville Metro Council Republican caucus plan to fight back against a proposed ban on using plastic bags to store yard waste.

In a unanimous vote, the Metro Solid Waste Board voted this week to require yard waste for pickup to be placed in bins or compostable containers

Supporters argue it is a needed measure to help the environment, but the nine-member GOP caucus called it an illegitimate decision made by an unelected board.

Republicans also argue that Mayor Greg Fischer, a Democrat, is using the appointed body to deliberately bypass the council’s authority.

“Do we want, essentially a committee that has no council oversight whatsoever or approval of their membership making laws that dictate to the rest of the community,” said Steve Haag, Republican caucus director. “Because, just to be clear, there are some commissions that the council at least has to approve the membership of, this isn’t even one of those.”

Council Republicans argue that allowing an appointed body to impose restrictions on residents sends a message that Metro Council can easily be bypassed in setting policy.

By sending the decision to the Solid Waste Board, Republican Councilman James Peden said, the mayor also is disregarding the legislative process.

“This is an end run by our mayor, just like on the federal level there are lots of new rules coming from the EPA and bypassing Congress and coming out of the executive branch,” he said.  “That just seems to be the governmental methods of the day.”

Fischer initially brought the proposal to the council two years ago, but the ordinance failed to get enough support he needed to impose the ban.

Peden said he found it odd the Democratic mayor could not get the support he needed given the 17-member majority Democrats hold on the council.

“Why couldn’t (Fischer) get his Metro Council to pass what he wants,” Peden said.  “This is another way of going to someone and saying, ‘Make a rule because I can’t get the legislative branch to do it.’  It’s going to keep happening until somebody calls their bluff.”

Democratic caucus spokesman Tony Hyatt said the ban has several supporters in the caucus, and the group as a whole wants a public education plan before the ban takes effect. 

Republican Councilman Kelly Downard said it is inappropriate to allow an unelected body to pass such a regulation for the entire community.

“To think that people, who I don’t even know who they are, can have that much effect on a community is a little surprising to me,” he said.

Besides questioning the constitutionality of the decision, Peden said he would like to see a more comprehensive overhaul of the methods associated with waste removal.

“If we’re going to change this rule, let’s make it’s the last rule we’re going to have to change for a while, and I don’t think that is the case, I think this is just the beginning,” he said.  “I think everything about this rule change revolves around one thing, that they don’t want plastic in their mulch. This was an economic issue.”

A decision hasn’t yet been made on when to begin implementing the ordinance. 

The council’s Sustainability Committee will meet to discuss the decision on Thursday.

Jacob Ryan

Jacob Ryan is the Urban Affairs reporter for WFPL.

@jacobhryan

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