Cuyahoga County proposed 10-cent bag charge could lead to legal battle

Council of Retail Merchants may take legal action

CLEVELAND - The Ohio Council of Retail Merchants issued a letter the Cuyahoga County Council President Dan Brady, stating it's 7,400 retail members are against the counties proposed 10-cent charge on paper and plastic bags.

Lora Miller, with the council of retail merchants, told News 5 the council could even take legal action if the proposal is approved.

Miller pointed to a legal summary, which the council of retail merchants believes makes it clear the 10-cent charge per bag is a tax not a fee.

Miller said Cuyahoga County is not allowed to approve a tax on its own under Ohio law.

"The Cuyahoga County bag proposal constitutes a tax, which the county clearly doesn't have the authority to implement," said Miller.

But Cuyahoga County council member Sunny Simon said she is confident the county can vote on the bag charge, because the proposal is a fee not a tax.

Simon said the proposal is a fee, because there is a narrow use for the dollars that will be generated.

"We do have that authority, we have home rule," said Simon.

"It only can be used for environmental remediation, that's the purpose for the fee and how we're going to use it. 60 percent of it will go toward lake clean-up, river clean-up and street clean-up."

Simon again made it clear that those facing financial hardship won't be subjected to the charge, if it's approved.

"We have exempted persons on public assistance, anybody on an EBT card is exempt from the fee," said Simon. 

"Working families who might not be able to afford this, it's great news for them, because they don't have to pay a dime.  All they have to do is grab reusable bags."

Simon said she expects county council to vote on the proposal before the end of the year.

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