Straws

State Legislators Suggest Banning Plastic Straw Bans

Bills in Colorado and Florida would mandate some new restrictions on plastic straws, but forbid local governments from banning the suckers outright.

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Visharo/Dreamstime.com

The slow march of straw bans across the country is starting to get some pushback in the form of proposed state preemption laws.

In both Florida and Colorado, legislators have introduced bills that would impose state-wide straw-on-request policies that ban food service businesses from issuing customers unsolicited straws, while also forbidding local governments from banning the plastic suckers outright.

For advocates of unbridled straw liberty, these policies are hardly ideal. Indeed, the country's current anti-straw mania got kicked into high-gear in early 2018 when California legislators pushed (and eventually enacted) a straw-on-request law. The policy's spread to more purple states in 2019 is a testament to the popular momentum behind the anti-straw movement.

That said, both Colorado and Florida's straw-on-request bills also come with a number of exceptions that limit their impact. Both allow for self-serve straw dispensers in restaurants and unsolicited straws to be included in delivery and take-out orders. More importantly, these two bills also forbid local governments from piling on even more onerous restrictions on straws or other plastic utensils and containers, including outright bans and mandates that restaurants swap out their plastic fare for biodegradable alternatives.

Given that most of the straw banning energy is coming from local governments, the preemption of municipal action could do a lot to forestall future straw bans in those states. In Florida, where cities like St. Petersburg and Miami Beach have already passed straw bans of their own, a preemption bill could even restore some modicum of choice for consumers.

Preemption laws themselves are hardly new, and in fact have been used in a number of midwestern states, including Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, to overturn local bans on plastic bags—yesteryear's chief environmental hazard. Wrapping these preemption policies with a lesser restriction on plastic straws is likely smart politics for industry groups with a vested interest in straws.

"If you were to allow 64 counties, 300 plus municipalities, the ability to dictate what products you can use, how you can use them, it's going to be virtually impossible for someone who operates in multiple counties to understand what standard they're operating under at any given time," the Colorado Restaurant Association's Nick Hoover told the Associated Press.

Florida's Restaurant Association similarly urged its members to adopt a straw-on-request policy, but has so far stayed silent on Florida's two straw preemption bills, both of which have been introduced by Republican members of the state Legislature.

The Plastics Industry Association—a trade association representing plastic manufacturers—has staked out a neutral stance on straw-on-request policies while opposing full-on bans.

Less compromising defenders of plastic straws may want to look to Utah, where Rep. Mike McKell (R–Spanish Fork) has introduced a bill that simply preempts local governments from banning straws, bags, or other plastic containers without including a straw-on-request mandate.

Still, the fact that conservative Republicans and restaurant lobbyists are willing to make their peace with straw-on-request policies outside of deep red Utah suggests that the days of laissez faire straw regulation are gone for good.

NEXT: West Virginia Teachers Striking Over Law That Would Allow Charters and Vouchers for Special-Needs Students

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  1. Seems like the plastics industry is simply grasping at… something

    1. Did that something break a camel’s back? It’s John’s date, isn’t it.

  2. Straws can be recycled if they are put in a larger container. The nonsense that they “can’t be recycled” is a cost issue for the recycler, not based on anything else.

    1. The only materials that can be recycled cost effectively are metals. Plastics and paper take more $$ and energy to recycle than to make new.

    2. They can also be put in landfills where they cause no problems. And as an added bonus, if you are concerned about CO2 in the atmosphere, all that petro-carbon is back in the ground where it came from.

  3. Once again I must ask. Are Libertarians in favor of local government, being closer to the people, having priority, or not?
    Is it consistent to fuss about federal preemption of state laws and then be in favor of state preemption of local laws?

    The states should leave the localities alone, and let the local voters deal with the local issues.

    Because thousands of conflicting local and state laws are how you best prevent “too big to fail”.

    1. Some types of libertarians are always going on about how smaller governments are preferable, becaue they tend to be less oppressive. However, as this shows, often that is not the case.

    2. Are Libertarians in favor of local government, being closer to the people, having priority, or not?

      Speaking for myself, I’m in favor of less government across the board, protection of individual rights, and free trade.

      Because thousands of conflicting local and state laws are how you best prevent “too big to fail”.

      Actually it’s how you generate manipulism crony capitalism, where only the largest companies with the most access can survive.

    3. Only as a practical measure.

  4. “laissez faire (straw) regulation”

    Really? I looked up oxymoron in the dictionary, and found that phrase as a perfect example – – – – – – –

  5. If a state law banned local governments from banning guns, some people here would have a very hard time figuring out how to feel about it.

    1. Most states do ban local governments from banning guns.

  6. The Plastics Industry Association?a trade association representing plastic manufacturers?has staked out a neutral stance on straw-on-request policies while opposing full-on bans.

    Why are people so afraid to go on record as saying “That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard! “

    1. Refer to the article on surviving 15 minutes of hate.

  7. Wake me when non-Lefty states like Georgia ban straws.

    Until then, this is a signal that Lefties are so powerless and distraught that their power to ban straws is their crowning achievement.

    I personally think the Lefty politicians are just getting furious that I keep sending boxes of straws to their offices. The news will never cover this or the politicians are not even telling anyone.

    I started sending foam peanuts to NY politicians recently too.

    Super fun.

  8. Let’s remember, folks, this straw silliness is all based on some numbers made up out of whole cloth by a grade school student.

    1. With all the success he’s gotten, he’s probably a classmate of David Hogg at Harvard.

  9. “Preemption laws themselves are hardly new, and in fact have been used in a number of midwestern states, including Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, to overturn local bans on plastic bags?yesteryear’s chief environmental hazard. Wrapping these preemption policies with a lesser restriction on plastic straws is likely smart politics for industry groups with a vested interest in straws.”

    They’re also used to protect business who want to maintain separate bathroom facilities for men and women, or otherwise be free from some of the weirder manifestations of “anti-discrimination” laws. That that, of course, violates the imprescribable right of self-government.

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  13. I have no strong feelings on the preemption topic, but I wanted to say: that’s possibly the best subhed ever.

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