Straw Ban Bills Migrate From Progressive Cities to Purple State Legislatures

Bills introduced in Montana, Florida, and Washington would either ban or restrict plastic straws.


Lesia Sementsova/

The war on the humble plastic straw rages on, but the the battlefield is shifting from city halls in deep blue municipalities to state legislatures in more ideologically diverse states.

Last week, lawmakers introduced a bill to ban straws in Florida and to mandate a state-wide straw-on-request policy—where customers must explicitly ask for a straw before a restaurant is legally allowed to give it to them—in Montana. A similar straw-on-request policy has been floated in Oregon, but formal legislation has yet to be introduced there.

In Washington State—home of the nation's first municipal straw ban in Seattle—legislators have introduced an even more far-reaching bill that would ban any sale or distribution of plastic straws, period.

"Reducing the demand for plastic straws is a concrete action we can take right now to help our environment, and honestly even the low-hanging fruit is worth picking," Sen. Patty Kuderer (D–Bellevue), the bill's sponsor, tells the Whidbey News-Times.

The Washington legislation was conceived by a high school government class from Kirkland, Washington, which perhaps explains the blanket prohibition on any sale or distribution of straws. As far as I know, only San Francisco's straw ban is as sweeping as this proposal. (A state-level bill banning the sale and distribution of straws was introduced in Hawaii in 2018 but went nowhere.)

The Washington bill also lacks the typical exemptions for disabled people. Instead, it rather laughably requires the Department of Health and Department of Social and Health Services to report to the legislature on how best to mitigate any unintended consequences of a straw prohibition.

A disability advocate tells the Whidbey News-Times that he is "horrified" by the legislation.

One small silver lining in the Washington bill is that its penalties are rather tame. Straw ban violators must receive two warnings before they can be fined. Three or more violations opens up a restaurateur to fines of $25 per violation, with annual penalties capped at $300.

Those are the same penalties found in Montana's straw-on-request bill. Florida's ban, by contrast, allows for a $500 fine on the first violation and up to $1,000 for any subsequent violation.

The Florida bill does allow for people with disabilities or other medical conditions to request a straw. That would seem to make the policy unenforceable, given that the bill does not define "disability" or "medical condition" and I imagine restaurants aren't going to be too keen on deciding which conditions qualify.

Outside the West Coast, Florida cities have been the most eager to crackdown on straws, with a number of municipalities either banning them or forbidding them on public beaches.

Scott DeFife, a vice president of government affairs at the Plastics Industry Association, says his organization opposes blanket prohibitions of straws. "We cannot ban our way out of the issue," he tells Reason. Straw-on-request laws that govern only the end-stage distribution are of less concern to the industry, he says. (And indeed, such rules are less oppressive than the big bans. But they are also intrusive requirements that will do little the address the marine pollution that is the stated purpose of the laws.)

All things considered, there is nothing all that novel about this crop of bills, save for the bodies that will be considering them.

So far, straw bans have passed in the places you might expect them to: coastal municipalities that are heavily populated with environmentally conscious progressives and already had single-use plastic restrictions on the books. How well these bills will fare in state legislatures that have either Republican majorities (Montana, Florida) or a more moderate crop of Democrats will be an interesting test of these paternalistic policies' popularity.

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  1. Hey Christian, learn to code!

    I’m on fire today!

    1. You’re supposed to say that to him after Nick lays him off.

    2. Code of Silence!

  2. Think of all the plastic you use every day, then think that a plastic straw ban would do anything but restrict your freedom.

    But it’s feelings over facts in the words of AOC. These people on a moral crusade will never stop

  3. This remodel is exactly what the commerce clause was written to prevent.

    1. Commerce clause,dam n auto correct

  4. Just means that straw bans will get to the SCOTUS quicker so they can be struck down as unconstitutional powers.

    Since the US Constitution nor any US state constitution provides power to ban a product or service without a Constitutional amendment.

    1. How about showing your work?

      loveconstitution1789|12.3.18 @ 10:20AM|#

      Do you need me to link the rules of NAFTA and USCMA so you can compare and contrast the “worseness” for us?

    2. For someone who with such absolute attitudes, you do a remarkably poor job of justifying immigration control. How about showing where the federal government gets its authority to control immigration?

      Article 1, Section 8: To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization… To declare War …

      Article 1, Section 9: The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight … I have never seen this used in any context but slavery, which is the only subject the Framers dodged, kicking the can down the road 20 years. They didn’t dodge war or naturalization; why single out immigration, which was not contentious?

      14th Amendment, Section 1: All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.

      9th Amendment: The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

      10th Amendment: The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

      Don’t fall back on hand-waving about border control being too obvious to enumerate; it’s hard to think of a natural right more obvious than self-defense.

      1. For someone who with such absolute attitudes, you do a remarkably poor job of justifying immigration control. How about showing where the federal government gets its authority to control immigration?

        The federal government has had the authority to deport immigrants going back to the Alien Friends and Enemies Acts of 1798.

      2. Poor alphabet troll.

  5. In order to obtain a straw customers must fill out a Form F35789b and forward one copy to the state capitol, one copy to the Federal Department of Straws, and present the other copy to the server.

  6. Good to see Montana is being proactive in protecting its shoreline.

  7. So can I still buy them in bulk from Amazon as long as they ship them from an out of state fulfillment center or will I need to start bootlegging them from Canada?

    1. Get a 3D printer and make black market straws.

  8. Ohio. We still got straws, bitch…

  9. In New Zealand “single use” plastic bags had been banned across the country, meaning the ubiquitous supermarket bags are now illegal. Apparently everyone is now required to bring their own shopping bags with them. Just like the old days when granny would go to the store with her cloth bag. The “education” campaign showed turtles getting bags wrapped around them. And since at least two generations of kids have been indoctrinated in the public school system, they and their guilty parents would never say a word against it.

    As with this story, the authorities are now boldly stating that all manner of plastic things will be banned in the near future.

    A chilling display of social engineering at work. Went smooth as silk. The forces of freedom have nothing like it. That’s why we’re all fucked.

    1. It went the other way back in the 20s (?) When many things were made of hemp and Owens Corning lobbied the government to make hemp illegal as a “drug plant” so they’d have less competition for nylon products. Follow the money…

      1. Money’s not driving this. This is pure ideology, and it’s been in motion since at least the 60s.

  10. If local municipalities and states want to ban them, why should libertarians oppose it? There is a credible case that the straws are harming the commons.

    1. No more than any other plastic product. Better to encourage business and people to voluntarily avoid using them when not necessary (ie when eating in). There’s a credible case that alternatives (ie new Starbucks lids) use more plastic so are worse for the environment…

    2. Local jurisdictions are entities of the states and no state constitution provides the power to ban any product or service.

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  12. “Reducing the demand for plastic straws is a concrete action we can take right now to help our environment”

    You would be reducing supply, not demand. Those aren’t even close to the same thing

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  15. Perhaps one of these “purple” legislatures will have the good sense to laugh this measure right out the door.

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