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Wasteful: Lawmakers trying to solve wrong problems

Most conservative lawmakers at one time branded themselves as being in favor of small government, particularly when it came to the federal government meddling in state matters. In fact, plenty of state lawmakers across the country still bristle when they believe Congress or the executive branch are overstepping their bounds in telling states how to handle their affairs.

Something has changed, however. Now, state lawmakers who consider themselves to be staunch conservatives are picking and choosing when they want to be proponents of smaller government, and when they want to meddle in the workings of municipalities, counties, local school boards — the folks elected by their communities to do the job close to home.

An odd recent example comes from House Bill 2500: “Statewide Uniformity for Auxiliary Container Regulations.”

“A local unit of government may not adopt or enforce an ordinance that does any of the following:

“(1) Regulates the use, disposition, or sale of auxiliary containers.

“(2) Prohibits or restricts auxiliary containers.

“(3) Imposes a fee, charge, or tax on auxiliary containers.” (emphasis ours)

In this case, auxiliary containers are bags, cups, bottles, etc. –reusable or single use — “designed for transporting, consuming, or protecting merchandise, food, or beverages from or at a food service or retail facility.”

You’re reading that right. State lawmakers want to prohibit local governments from being able to ban, for example, plastic straws. It does not matter to the folks in Charleston whether the elected officials in those local governments believe that is the will of the people they serve.

But wait, you may be asking which municipality had the audacity to try such a thing, and provoke the Legislature’s imposition of control. There isn’t one. This is not happening in West Virginia. In fact, when Del. Brandon Steele, R-Raleigh, was looking for examples, he chose to strike fear in the hearts of his fellow lawmakers by pointing out this is a thing that has happened in San Francisco. If you truly believe municipal bans on certain products are problematic, surely there is greater evidence against them than their existence in California.

Nevertheless, his tactic worked. The bill passed out of the House 79-19, with two absent. Now it heads to the state Senate, where lawmakers tell us they are trying hard to find ways to attract and retain hundreds of thousands of residents to the Mountain State. One wonders what kind of message it will send about state government and its priorities in West Virginia.

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