Assembly Joins Senate in Passing Bill Barring NYC From Bag Fee

ALBANY -
Sens. Andrew Lanza and Simcha Felder, along with Assemblyman Michael Cusick, Sen. Martin Golden and Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz hold up a copy of the bill Tuesday as they celebrate the passage of legislation postponing New York City’s bag tax.

The state Assembly joined their Senate counterparts Tuesday in voting overwhelmingly to block New York City from implementing a 5-cent fee on shopping bags until the end of 2017, pushing the issue past the municipal election in November.

The vote of 122 in favor versus 15 against comes days after the Republican-led Senate arrived at a deal with the Democratic Assembly to push it off for another year. The Senate passed it Monday evening with a 43 to 16 vote. The bill now heads to Gov. Andrew Cuomo for signing.

The bag tax — technically a fee since the money goes to the storeowner instead of the government — had been set to go into effect next Wednesday. The new bill puts a moratorium until the end of 2017.

If the council wants to pass it again next year they must have a new vote.

The state bill “carries it past the election and allows a new council to come in,” Sen. Simcha Felder, the lead Senate sponsor who has battled the proposed bag fee since his days as a city councilman in 2005, told Hamodia shortly after the bill passed his chamber on Monday.

“Hopefully,” he added, “the issue of the bag tax will be something that will confront people on the election but it won’t be something that they had no control over.”

The Assembly legislation was introduced by Assemblyman Michael Cusick, a Democrat from Staten Island.

The bag fee, touted by its supporters as a way to get rid of the bags floating on waters or stuck in trees, passed the council last year in an unusually tight 28 to 20 vote. Its prime sponsor, Brad Lander of Brooklyn, as well as Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, are term-limited and will not be in the council next year. Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is a strong supporter of the bill, also faces voters later this year.

To get around the state’s “home rule” law, which requires cities to get permission from the state legislature before raising taxes, Mr. Lander formulated his law as a fee paid directly to storeowners. State lawmakers, however, argued that it was still a tax and therefore unconstitutional.

The Senate passed a bill last year banning the bag tax from taking effect. The Assembly then secured a promise from Mr. de Blasio to seek an alternative to the nickel-per-bag fee in return for not voting on the Senate’s bill. The bag fee was postponed until Feb. 15 but the city never proposed any substitute law.

“It took New York state to step in in the eleventh hour and stop the city council from nickel-and-diming New Yorkers,” said Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz, a Midwood Democrat.