Minneapolis shoppers won't have to pay for bags at checkouts after all.
The City Council declined to vote on an ordinance Friday that would attach a 5-cent fee to bags that retailers provide, instead asking city staff to come back with a recommendation for reducing plastic waste.
City Council President Barb Johnson proposed the change — which did not specify when staff have to report back to the council — citing concerns from residents and small business owners. The council has passed or implemented several ordinances this year that affect local businesses, from mandatory paid sick leave and the $15 minimum wage to a restriction on menthol tobacco sales.
"I think it's important to understand what we are doing … to small businesses in this city, which is apparently trying to drive them out," Johnson said. "And it's not right. It's not fair."
More than a year ago, the council passed an ordinance banning plastic bags. But the day before it was supposed to go into effect, Gov. Mark Dayton signed a budget bill with a provision, co-authored by Republican legislators, prohibiting cities from banning any type of bag.
The ordinance under consideration Friday was an effort to work within state law while encouraging shoppers to use reusable bags. It would have gone into effect Oct. 1 and required retailers to collect a fee for any bags they provide to customers, including plastic, paper, compostable and reusable bags.
There were some exceptions, including bags used to package bulk grocery items, dry-cleaning bags and bags used for carryout at restaurants. Customers who use public assistance to buy food wouldn't have had to pay the fee.
The ordinance drew opposition from groups representing bag manufacturers, who argued it would hurt low-income shoppers and put more money in the pockets of corporations.
American Progressive Bag Alliance Executive Director Matt Seaholm applauded the council action in a statement Friday.
"By rejecting this regressive proposal, the City Council made a decision that protects the city's shoppers from being nickel and dimed at the checkout and, hopefully, shifts the conversation to responsible approaches for encouraging product reuse and recycling," he said.
In a tense exchange between council members Friday, Council Member Cam Gordon, the chief author of the fee ordinance, said delaying the vote seemed to be a response to industry opposition. He pointed out that the majority of the council supported the original version of the ordinance, which included a 5-cent fee for paper bags.
"I think somehow this has gotten blown out of proportion," he said.