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Bag Ban Repeal, Fisheries Panel Cuts Loom

Reprinted from the Outer Banks Voice

Now that the General Assembly has finalized its version of a $23 billion state government budget for the next two years, lawmakers will be moving quickly to wrap up the 2017 session, possibly by the end of next week.

And with a possible adjournment close at hand, an environmental regulation reform bill that would repeal the Outer Banks ban on plastic shopping bags and cut the two at-large seats from the state Marine Fisheries Commission has taken another step toward approval.

House Bill 56, which was approved by the state Senate finance committee on Wednesday, includes rolling back the bag ban implemented in 2009, which initially blocked larger retailers on the barrier islands from Corolla to Ocracoke from using the bags, then expanded the prohibition to all businesses the next year.

It also requires retailers to offer recyclable paper bags and to give a rebate or other incentive for each re-usable bag a customer provides.

Also included in the bill is reducing the size of the state Marine Fisheries Commission from nine to seven seats by eliminating the two at-large positions.

Outer Banks ban on plastic shopping bags could be repealed. Photo: NOAA

It calls for three commercial-related seats, three representing recreational fishing interest and one for a scientist, all appointed by the governor.

Also included in the proposed scenario is requiring a super majority of five votes to approve rule-making and the regulation of fisheries under a fishery management plan.

The measure includes language that would block any fishery rule changes by the commission or temporary rules issued by the director of the Division of Marine Fisheries “that either were not originally developed in accordance with (state law) or result in severe curtailment of the usefulness or value of equipment.”

Some see another bill in the state House, H867, which would completely rework the 1997 Fisheries Reform Act, as being filed as a countermeasure to the changes called for in H56.

H867 has since stalled in committee, but a rewritten measure could resurface before the end of the session.

The bag ban repeal was added to a similar environmental omnibus bill that was cleared by the state House in late April.

 The Marine Fisheries Commission changes were included in the Senate’s version of the budget, but was left out of the final spending plan presented by lawmakers on Monday.

H56 has been scheduled to be heard Thursday by the Senate Rules committee, and if approved could be voted on by the full Senate as early as Monday.

And because the Senate has amended the bill, it will likely head back to the House to gain their approval, which legislative insiders say is likely.

With plans for both chambers to send the budget to Gov. Roy Cooper by Friday, there is a good chance the long session of the General Assembly will wrap up by the end of the month.

This story is provided courtesy of the Outer Banks Voice, a digital newspaper covering the Outer Banks. Coastal Review Online is partnering with the Voice to provide readers with more environmental and lifestyle stories of interest about our coast. You can read other stories about the Outer Banks here.

About the Author

Sam Walker

Sam Walker is the news director of Max Radio of the Carolinas and a staff writer for the "Outer Banks Voice."