Assembly gives final approval to bill delaying NYC 5-cent bag fee

ALBANY — The state Assembly Tuesday approved a bill to sack a controversial 5-cent fee on disposable bags in New York City.

The bill, which cleared the Senate Monday, would impose a one-year moratorium on the city bag fee law that is due to go into effect Feb. 15.

It immediately was sent to Gov. Cuomo’s desk. An aide said it’s under review.

Citing environmental benefits of the bill, City Council Members Margaret Chin and Brad Lander called on Cuomo to “to help us reach a compromise that would allow New York City to try out this effective, common-sense strategy.”

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But state lawmakers, who overwhelmingly passed the moratorium in both houses, urged Cuomo to sign it into law. If he does, the City Council would be required to pass another version of the legislation when the moratorium is up.

“We’re hoping that this gives the City Council the opportunity to come to their senses and understand and appreciate what’s happening in their districts, which is that the overwhelming majority of the people of New York City know this (fee) is a fraud,” said Sen. Andrew Lanza (R-Staten Island).

Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D-Brooklyn) has predicted the votes are there for the first override of Cuomo’s tenure should he veto the bill.

City Council spokeswoman Robin Levine blasted the moratorium as doing nothing except to “ensure single-use plastic bags will continue to overwhelm New York City’s landfills.”

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Noting the city is the only locality impacted, Levine said “the Council is disappointed the State Legislature has chosen to unfairly single out New York, even as local governments in Long Beach and Suffolk have moved forward with their own nominal plastic bag fee legislation without interference from the State."

The bill passed both the Assembly and Senate overwhelmingly.

Assemblyman Michael Cusick, the Staten Island Democrat who sponsored the bill in his chamber, said he supports the goal of helping the environment and hopes the one-year delay will give the state and city time to hold hearings and explore alternatives to charging a fee on plastic and other disposable bags.

"This gives us that time period to do that and work with the City Council and the city to come up with something," Cusick said.

The city law was initially supposed to go into effect last October. But after state legislators in both houses threatened to override the city, its enactment was delayed until Feb. 15 so there could be talks between the city and state.

There was no deal reached.

Assembly supporters of the moratorium said Tuesday the city didn’t give an inch.

“They believed they could get away with it,” Hikind said of City Council. “That’s chutzpah.”

But opponents of the moratorium like Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh (D-Manhattan) and Assemblyman Robert Carroll (D-Brooklyn) argued that the city law would spare the environment and criticized the state Legislature for overruling a local legislative body.

Several supporters, including Assemblyman Michael DenDekker (D-Queens) and Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz (D-Bronx), argued that if the issue is truly about sparing the environment, the city could have simply moved to issue a full ban on plastic bags rather than attach a fee to them.

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