This Op-Ed by Jamie Harvie appeared in the Duluth News Tribune, April 1st, 2018.
Minnesota is nationally recognized for its reputation of good government and high voter participation. In that light, it is perplexing why state legislators would actively work to subvert our democratic process.
Several bills — HF3814, SF3253, SF3135 and HF3606 — pending in our Legislature, if enacted, would wrest waste-management authority away from Minnesota cities. Together they would retroactively preempt decision-making on issues that impact the health and welfare of all Minnesotans at the local level, including municipal-compost quality, climate-change mitigation, litter, landfill space, and water quality.
In 2010, Washington, D.C., instituted a 5-cent fee (not a tax) on single-use carry-out bags, and saw a 60 percent reduction in plastic-bag use in the first year. Its success in reducing litter, climate emissions, and waste generation led to other cities, states, and countries following its lead out of a concern for health.
These experiments in grassroots democracy helped incubate, inform, and strengthen good public policy in communities across our state and nation. They provided a high-bar legislative template as an alternative to a local mandate. It is up to citizens at the local level to decide if they want to adopt similar legislation.