Baltimore City Council approves income based water billing system, plastic bag ban
The Baltimore City Council has approved a bill to create an income-based water billing system. The measure establishes tiered credits, which would ensure residents within certain limits of the Federal Poverty Line receive water bills they can afford to pay.
City Councilman Kristerfer Burnett says the measure will benefit many people. “this a huge deal,” said Burnett. “[Especially] for those in West Baltimore, Southwest Baltimore –that struggle every day to afford their bills. This is an issue that we’ve been working on for a long time.”
Rianna Eckel with the group Food And Water Action applauds the council passage of the bill. “Baltimore is once again declaring itself a water justice leader,” said Eckel. “An example for the rest of the country to follow.”
The Water Accountability and Equity Act also creates a standard and open process to dispute erroneous bills. Mayor Jack Young introduced the bill last year when he was council president and he is expected to sign it into law.
In other Council action Monday night, the panel passed another piece of legislation that has taken years to win final approval. A measure sponsored by 4th District Councilman Bill Henry, banning plastic bags finally escaped the clutches of long suffering defeat in committee. The bill bans retailers from providing plastic bags at checkout and requires them to charge customers a nickel for other bags, like those made of paper. Under the measure some products like meats, produce, fresh fish, dry cleaning and prescription drugs would be exempt from the plastic ban.
Councilwoman Danielle McCray voted no on the measure. McCray explained her opposition to the council, saying supports the ban or plastic bags, but is against a bag tax on plastic bags, paper bags or compostable bags. “It’s an unnecessary and regressive tax on low income residents, on working families on a fixed income, believes it’s a regressive tax on the poor, on seniors within my communities on a fixed income who voice their frustration daily,” said McCray.
Councilman Bill Henry, who sponsored the legislation, said the bill’s passage has been a long time coming. Henry said former Councilman Jim Kraft, passed a version of [the bill] in the 2003 term. “We have been trying for many years to reduce the proliferation of single use plastic in Baltimore City, said Henry.” Thankfully, it seems we have finally accomplished our goal. I believe that the bill we actually ended up passing, is good bill—it’s a strong bill.
In a statement, Henry also thanke the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Councilman Eric Costello, for ensuring a robust public conversation on the issue through five public work sessions this summer.
Mayor Jack Young can either sign the bill or allow it to become law without his signature. The legislation will take full effect late next year.