Plastic bag tax initiative goes to CBJ Assembly

Organizers of a citizens’ initiative in Juneau to tax plastic shopping bags at certain retailers have collected the required number of signatures to put the measure on the ballot. But it might have to wait a year before going to voters.

The 15-cent “plastic bag tax” would be levied at the point of sale, and apply to all retail outlets with annual gross sales of 15-million dollars or more. It’s aimed at reducing the use of plastic bags by encouraging people to go with re-usable shopping bags. Organizers collected more than the required 2,271 signatures to put the initiative on the ballot.

The CBJ Charter gives the assembly the option of adopting an ordinance bypassing a citizens’ initiative, as long as the ordinance doesn’t change the substance of the proposal. If the assembly fails to act in 45 days the measure goes to voters as is.

The plastic bag tax initiative is on the agenda for tonight’s regular assembly meeting. Because of the deadline for preparing this fall’s municipal election, if the assembly delays action beyond August 22nd, the measure would appear on the October 2012 ballot.

Also on the agenda for tonight’s assembly meeting is a public hearing on an ordinance asking voters to extend the CBJ’s temporary 3 percent sales tax another five years. The tax is due to expire July 1, 2012. The current 5 percent CBJ sales tax has three components – the temporary 3 percent tax, a temporary 1 percent tax, and a permanent 1 percent tax. Among the city functions covered by the 3 percent tax are police, fire, street maintenance, parks and recreation, libraries, and some capital improvement projects.

Tonight’s meeting starts at 7 p.m. in City Hall Assembly Chambers. It can be heard live on KTOO.

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