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Thursday, February 25, 2016

Ind. Gov't. - Plastic bags and Tesla autos (and loansharks) - our GA at work

Some quotes from an opinion piece today by Indianapolis Star columnist Tim Swarens. First, plastic bags:

In some strange and exotic places in the world, say California, stores charge customers a few cents to pack their Fruit Loops in plastic. The rationale for the levy, or for outright bans in some cities, is that the production and disposal of all of those plastic bags — billions and billions a year given the collective mass of the American Shopper — puts a strain on the environment. If customers have to pay a few cents more per bag, or so the thinking goes, they are more apt to bring their own reusable bags, and thus help keep tons of plastic out of the waste stream.

That’s actually not a new or radical concept. I’m old enough to remember pulling a little red wagon packed with pop bottles to the grocery store to collect a few bucks on empties retrieved from road sides and empty lots. Stores back then charged the original purchaser of a Coke, Pepsi or RC Cola a few cents for the glass bottle as an incentive to return the empty. Which in turn gave an industrious child who picked up after the lazy and the careless an opportunity to earn enough to buy an extra pack or two of baseball cards.

But these days, in the Indiana General Assembly, a surcharge on plastic bags is seen as a new and dangerous imposition on commerce.

The state Senate on Tuesday passed legislation that would block local governments from taxing or restricting the use of plastic bags at grocery stores and other retail outlets. Since the House has already passed the measure, it will soon land on Gov. Mike Pence’s desk. (If you’re holding out hope for a veto, I have a beach on the White River to sell you).

This — this! — is what our lawmakers have accomplished? In a state where education and income levels badly trail the national averages? Where health standards are behind the curve? Where environmental measurements are below par?

I can see the end of session legislative mailers now: “Yes, critics say our air isn’t clean enough and our kids weigh too much, but we courageously stood against the statists in the People’s Republic of Bloomington. Plastic bags continue to breathe free in the great Hoosier state!”

As justification for the ban, Sen. Brent Steele, R-Bedford, told the Associated Press that the bill is necessary because industry groups oppose regulations on the use of plastic bags. Well, if industry groups are against it, then that surely settles it.

Next, Teslas:
This issue is about far more than plastic bags blowing in the wind. Far too often in the Statehouse, the desires of the wealthy and the connected trump the needs of ordinary Hoosiers.

On Thursday morning, a Senate committee is scheduled to debate legislation that could effectively block the sale of Tesla vehicles in Indiana. General Motors has backed the bill because the giant automaker claims that Tesla’s business model — it sells directly to consumers instead of using auto franchises — creates unfair competition.

Perhaps. Or perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate a century-old model for doing business. Whatever the case, let’s allow consumers and the marketplace, not government, to decide.

And even more:
In another Senate committee room Thursday morning, lawmakers are scheduled to discuss a bill that would allow payday loan operators to charge customers interest rates of up to 180 percent a year. That rate actually would be more than double what is considered by law to be loan sharking in Indiana.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on February 25, 2016 09:09 AM
Posted to Indiana Government