Bill of the Week: Senate Bill 90

CHIEF SPONSOR: The Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, chaired by state Sen. Michael Dembrow (D-Portland).

WHAT PROBLEM IT SEEKS TO SOLVE: Single-use plastic straws are a significant contributor to the gyre of garbage in the Pacific Ocean and are a major source of litter.
WHAT THE BILL WOULD DO: The bill would require businesses serving drinks to give straws only to consumers who specifically request them. It provides limited exceptions for drinks that require straws, such as Slurpees, and at drive-thru windows.

WHO SUPPORTS IT: Initially, the bill drew support from a range of environmental groups. But after interested parties—including the American Chemistry Council, which represents the plastics industry—offered a flurry of amendments, the bill was rewritten to prohibit local jurisdictions from making their own rules about straws. "Who would have expected 12 amendments on a bill dealing with plastic straws?" Dembrow said before sending the bill to the Senate floor, where it passed 23-6. The bill awaits a hearing in the House.

WHO OPPOSES IT: After the bill was amended to prohibit local governments from passing their own regulations on straws, Surfrider Foundation, an environmental group that backed the original bill, withdrew its support for the new version. The city of Eugene went further, announcing its opposition. In testimony, Ethan Nelson, a lobbyist for Eugene, said the bill's proposed fines ($25 a day, up to a maximum of $300 a year) are too small to matter and the bill would "greatly impede Eugene's ability to enact a more comprehensive, single-use plastic ordinance." The city of Portland doesn't like the pre-emption embodied in the amended bill, but the city's newly adopted plastic-straw policy would be unaffected.