“What we’re working on, I swear you can’t make this up, is a ban on the ban on the ban,” says Missy Stults, director of Ann Arbor’s Office of Sustainability and Innovation. “We’re trying to get a piece of legislation introduced which prohibits the state from banning local governments from banning things.”
For instance, in June 2016, Washtenaw County required stores to charge ten cents for disposable bags. Six months later, then-lieutenant governor Brian Calley signed a law preventing local governments from imposing bag fees.
That was a common fate for progressive local policies during the years when the GOP controlled the state legislature. So in November when Democrats won majorities in both houses for the first time since 1980, the city had a long wish list for Lansing.
Its latest legislative and policy agenda, released in December, includes authorizing community solar programs, setting speed limits slower than Michigan’s twenty-five-miles-per-hour minimum, and ending the ban on bag bans.
“In the state of Michigan less than 1% of plastic bags are recycled, while annually the Great Lakes intake 10,000 tons of plastic,” the agenda reads. “We recommend that the state’s preemption of disposable bag bans be repealed immediately.”
“We’re not a big fan of instances of municipal preemption, where the legislature tells cities writ large that they can or cannot do specific things,” says deputy city administrator John Fournier. “Especially something like a plastic bag ban, which our community feels very strongly about.
“You’ll see that thread commonly through our entire legislative policy document. It’s really important to us that local communities have some autonomy to decide these issues for themselves.”
Fournier says that city leaders don’t expect the entire agenda to pass. “But it shouldn’t be a surprise to anybody that the city of Ann Arbor is probably starting with a little bit more of an advantage with the Democratic majority in the legislature.”