The Texas Supreme Court today ruled against a Laredo ordinance banning the use of plastic bags by merchants, effectively voiding all such ordinances statewide.
The case was brought by the Laredo Merchants Association, a group of businesses unhappy with the onerous regulation, in 2016, eventually reaching the state’s highest court for oral arguments earlier this year.
In the opinion, Chief Justice Nathan Hecht explains that the court found the ordinance to be in direct contradiction with state law that says local governments may not “prohibit, or restrict, for solid waste management purposes, the sale or use of a container or package in a manner not authorized by state law.”
Hecht adds, “Deciding whether uniform statewide regulation or nonregulation is preferable to a patchwork of local regulations is the Legislature’s prerogative,” teeing up a potential series of legislative fights against onerous local ordinances.
In 2016, State Rep. Matt Rinaldi (R–Irving) and a group of 19 Republican state legislators filed an amicus curiae brief arguing that cities had overstepped their authority, largely citing a 2014 opinion by then-Attorney General Greg Abbott which argued that cities had overstepped their bounds.
“The era of Texas municipal bag bans is over,” Rinaldi told Texas Scorecard following the court ruling. “I am thrilled to have played a part in ending these illegal regulations and will continue to fight local government overreach that infringes on the liberty of Texans.”
Shortly after the opinion was released, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton released a statement, expecting the decision to invalidate such ordinances statewide:
Municipalities violate the law when they unlawfully pass the burden of solid waste management to citizens and retailers through illegal bag bans. I hope that Laredo, Austin, and any other jurisdictions that have enacted illegal bag bans will take note and voluntarily bring their ordinances into compliance with state law. Should they decline to do so, I expect the ruling will be used to invalidate any other illegal bag bans statewide.
Today’s ruling is a major victory in the ongoing battle with out-of-control local governments that impose local tyranny under the guise of “local control.”