AUSTIN (AP/KXAN) — Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is suing the U.S.-Mexico border city of Brownsville, calling a local $1 fee on plastic bags at store checkouts an illegal sales tax.
Brownsville’s “environmental fee” was approved locally and took effect in January. It’s meant to reduce waste by discouraging single-use bags.
The suit was filed Wednesday in state District Court in Brownsville. Paxton said in a statement that the ban has cost Brownsville residents millions in fees, adding: “The rule of law must be upheld.”
The suit marks the first time the state attorney general has sued a locality over a bag ban in recent years, though the Republican-controlled Legislature has previously tried unsuccessfully to outlaw such bans. In 2014, then-Attorney General Greg Abbott said city bans on single-use plastic bags are illegal.
For Austinites, the reality of remembering to bring your reusable bags with you to the grocery store happened in 2013. The Dallas City Council implemented a partial plastic bag ban in 2015 but immediately repealed it a few months later.
The Texas Retailers Association is against plastic bag bans. They say the bans have a larger impact on lower income families, could impair existing recycling efforts, and are not a comprehensive solution to the problem.