From WTOP News

ANNAPOLIS – Instead of banning the retail use of plastic bags, the City Council on Monday introduced a version of the bill calling for a study of their effect.

Alderman Samuel E. Shropshire was the sponsor of the bill. He had promoted the proposal to protect the Chesapeake Bay. It had been praised by environmentalists, but got mixed reactions from local business owners.

About 12 people spoke for and against the bill. Shropshire sometimes took exception to opposition statements and sparred with members of the council and Mayor Ellen O. Moyer over their move to replace his measure, which effectively killed it.

“They sidestepped the issue. This was a cop-out … that I find very offensive,” said Shropshire. He promised to include amendments to the revised bill that would hold businesses accountable for plastic bag use.

The alternative proposal was drafted by Moyer and council members Ross H. Arnett III, Richard E. Israel and Sheila M. Finlayson. It would create a voluntary program for city residents to utilize reusable bags that would be studied. It would also set up a panel that would examine the city’s environmental practices and initiatives.

The new proposal must undergo public comment before the council can vote. “It’s an attempt to make the whole thing broader-based and making it not just one issue,” according to Ray Weaver, the mayor’s spokesman. “The feeling among the mayor and some of the aldermen was that addressing one piece of trash – the plastic bags – is OK, but it doesn’t really address the overall environmental issues.”

Shropshire’s proposal would require that all retailers and restaurants provide recyclable paper bags or reusable bags or be fined up to $500.

At a public hearing in July, representatives from grocery chains, including Safeway and Giant, expressed dissatisfaction with the proposal. And although a few business owners publicly praised the legislation, the Annapolis Business Association said the ban would place an undue hardship on downtown business owners.

Also at Monday’s meeting, the council denied a request to postpone a vote a bill that would have allowed all businesses that serve alcohol to stay open until 2 a.m. The move effectively killed it.

Information from: The (Baltimore) Sun

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)