Bullying local governments: An issue bigger than plastic bags

What do these have in common with bump stocks?/photo by Dan4th Nicholas

What do these have in common with bump stocks?/photo by Dan4th Nicholas

This Tweet reminded me of something I meant to post about:

First, kudos to James for standing up on this: Forbidding local governments to clean up their communities is unconscionable.

But there’s a much bigger issue here than plastic bags littering the landscape: More than 40 years after passage of the Home Rule Act, the South Carolina General Assembly continues to bully local governments, preventing South Carolinians from running their own affairs in their own communities as they see fit.

It was always thus. From the beginning, long before the Recent Unpleasantness, the small class of plantation owners who ran things from the Legislature kept local governments weak, just as they did the governor. Home Rule was supposed to fix that, at least on the county level. But lawmakers kept vestiges of the Legislative State — such as unaccountable Special Purpose Districts (think Richland County Recreation Commission, and the Elections Commission in the same county). In some counties, state lawmakers even continued to run local schools.

And when local officials dare to try to improve their communities without the permission of the state, they can expect to have the state jump on them, hard.

We all saw what happened, nationally and locally, after the mass shooting in Las Vegas: Pretty much everyone, across the political spectrum, agreed that nobody needed a “bump stock,” and that the deadly devices were bad news all around.

And then, on the national level, nothing happened. And here in Columbia, elected officials decided they would act, within their limited ability to act: They banned the use, although not the possession, of bump stocks within the city limits.

It wasn’t much, but it made national news, and was much applauded as a case of some elected officials, somewhere, being willing do something.

So of course, a group of SC lawmakers decided they weren’t going to allow that. So Reps. Jonathon D. Hill, Craig A. Gagnon, Anne J. Thayer, Joshua A. Putnam — none of whom live anywhere near Columbia — sponsored H. 4707, “so as to provide that a political subdivision may not regulate firearm accessories.”

It’s the same old story in South Carolina: These lawmakers don’t propose to DO anything; they just want to make sure nobody else does anything….

61 thoughts on “Bullying local governments: An issue bigger than plastic bags

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    And of course, of course, OF COURSE our Legislature went ahead and did it anyway:

    The S.C. House voted Wednesday to bar towns and counties from making up their own minds about whether to ban plastic bags.

    By a vote of 73-41, the House gave the second of three needed approvals to a bill that would give the General Assembly the sole authority to regulate single-use containers intended to carry food or merchandise….

    Here’s a fascinating fact I’ve noticed over the years. New people get elected to the Legislature, and for the most part they know next to nothing about our history or legislative traditions. They just know they came to cut taxes or fight “sanctuary cities” or whatever, and they don’t know what happened last year, much less in past centuries.

    And yet somehow, perhaps by osmosis, they quickly take up the grand South Carolina tradition of oppressing local governments. It’s like it’s in the water or something….

    1. Brad Warthen Post author


      Y’all, Clark is alluding to the fact that industry lobbyists everywhere believe in the opposite of subsidiarity. They want states to dictate to local governments, and Washington to dictate to states. It saves them and their principles a lot of time and money if they only have to lobby the folks running the central government. Get the folks at the larger governmental entity on your side, and you can steamroll over the locals….

      In this post, I concentrated on the reason that is specific to South Carolina — the vestiges of the Legislative State. The lobbyist problem is everywhere.

      Since I’m not over at the State House, I can’t testify as to the extent lobbyists were a factor in the plastic bag thing here, but it has all the marks — and nationally, industry lobbyists have fought hard (and effectively) against these measures…

  2. Bryan Caskey

    Wait, there was a bill that would have prohibited cities from banning plastic bags? Did I miss a meeting?

    Are there cities who want to ban plastic bags….the ones you get for your groceries? Is this a thing?

    1. Kevin Dietrich

      It’s a big thing in California, to be certain. I don’t know how big a push there is for it here, but plastic bags were outlawed out west some years ago. You either bring your own cloth bags in for your groceries or pay for paper bags from the store. It’s not a big hit with many in the state.

        1. Norm Ivey

          I’m kinds with Bryan on this one. I fancy myself a bit of an environmentalist, but this is one of those so what? issues for me. I have a friend who drives a pretty large size SUV that gets crappy mileage (therefore more emissions), but who complains about cigarette butts littering the streets.

          There are far more important things than paper vs. plastic bags.

                1. Brad Warthen Post author

                  Maddening, eh? But I fixed it for you.

                  If it makes you feel any better, you didn’t forget. The command to close italics is there, but you left out the slash (/) mark…

                2. Norm Ivey

                  Oh, yes. I feel much better. Instead of merely being forgetful, I’m incompetent.

                  Thanks for fixing it.

        2. bud

          Me too. (You’re probably being sarcastic but still I try to find areas of agreement wherever I can 🙂 ) Hopefully we can address the many environmental issues that burden our planet and will only get worse unless we get a handle on this and other issues. The plastic plague is a good place to start. We’ve already largely gotten rid of filthy coal for electricity generation. Most countries have reduced their birth rate to a sustainable level. The continent of Africa is the major exception. Brad suggests the bigger problem in this story is the state government encroaching on local purview. I have to disagree. We only have one environment. We must protect it even if that means some inconvenience.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            My point, bud, was that the urge to suppress local initiative not only prevents this thing you want — bag bans — from happening, it prevents other things from happening as well. That makes it bigger, because it’s not just a stumbling block on this one issue.

            It’s every bit as important as you think it is… but more important, because it affects other things in addition. You see?

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              Wait… to take Bryan’s and Norm’s points into account, maybe it isn’t as important as you think it is. What I meant was…

              Oh, never mind. I’m confusing myself at this point. Let’s move on … 🙂

      1. Norm Ivey

        It took us by surprise last summer. We stopped at a grocery store and were checking out when we realized there were no bags, but there was a lady walking around with bags that we could buy. And she told us exactly whet SHE thought of the policy. I’d say she was quite unhappy living in a liberal state.

        We shopped other places that gave us bags without charge. When we asked about it, we were told that it’s up to the merchant whether or not to absorb the cost of the bag or to pass it on to the consumer. The grocery store was the only place that charged us.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          That’s the glory of federalism (or subsidiarity). And I’m all for it.

          I was in Memphis a couple of years back, and went to Whole Foods. Expensive as Whole Foods may be, it does have its loss leaders, and one of them is “Three Wishes” wine, which at that point was selling for about $2.99 a bottle (or was it $3.99? — in any case, cheap).

          Hating to ask for help, I walked around the store about four times, looking for the wine. I was using the association method — well, maybe it would be next to this, or that

          Finally, I had to give up and ask an employee — only to be reminded that I was in Tennessee, where you couldn’t sell wine in a grocery store. I had lived in Tennessee from the end of 1971 to mid-1985, but I had forgotten that.

          Actually, I think that law has changed in the last year or two, but I haven’t been back to check it out.

          And don’t even get me started on the weird alcohol laws of Pennsylvania, where you can’t buy beer to take out from a convenience store, but you CAN buy a six pack to take out from some restaurants. But mostly you can only buy beer by the case or keg, from businesses that do only that…

          1. Doug Ross

            Pretty much every state has weird alcohol laws either designed to protect the interests of large distributors (through donors and lobbyists) or to allow busybodies to impose their morality on others. Ask some of the local breweries about the hoops they have to jump through due to various laws.

            There are about a dozen states that have laws against Happy Hour — specifically preventing restaurants from selling alcohol at a lower price during the day. The lunacy of politicians no know bounds.

          2. Norm Ivey

            Maryland, beer is only available in liquor stores.
            Somewhere in the south–Mississippi or Louisiana? maybe–you can ONLY get beer at gas stations.
            Pennsylvania is as you said–I couldn’t buy a six-pack, but I could buy a 12-pack.

            And don’t get me started on dry counties. I asked a guy in a Wal-Mart in Texas where to go for beer, and he told me, “Arkansas.”

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              When my wife and I got married outside of Memphis, there was so much going on at the reception that we didn’t get to partake of the food or drink. The plan was to head to the Grand Strand for the honeymoon, and as we got on the road, we told ourselves we’d order some champagne at dinner.

              We didn’t get all that far that night, what with the late start and being tired from the rehearsal dinner and all the night before.

              So we stopped somewhere between Nashville and Chattanooga, checked into a motel, and went out for dinner.

              When we tried to order a bottle of champagne, we were informed that we had stopped for the night in a dry county.

              Ironically, it’s the same county where Jack Daniels whiskey is distilled…

              1. Norm Ivey

                Yeah–that’s an odd thing. We toured the distillery a couple years ago, and you can purchase liquor there, but no where else. That’s one way of maintaining a monopoly…

    2. bud

      Yes and a good thing too. We should be moving in the direction of eradicating all sorts of plastic crap. It’s polluting our oceans and defiling the land. The state should be supporting these bans not prohibiting them

  3. Doug Ross

    This gets to something I wrote on the blog post about James Smith’s challengers — where are the examples of the instances when he has been able to lead a fight against Republicans and win? If he can’t do it now (or in the past 20 years of “fighting”), what will be different as Governor? What power would he have if he beats a weak candidate like Henry McMaster? It would be James Hodges all over again. Just a chair filler until the next election.

    I don’t want McMaster to win but I’d like someone who isn’t a long term politician with little to show for his decades in office to win. A leader leads. A leader wins. A leader wouldn’t sit silently while the Quinn faction runs the government.

    This isn’t about local rule… it’s about some politicians getting paid off to do the bidding of the plastic bag industry. Most citizens would be fine with eliminating them… but we don’t have a voice that trumps the payoffs.

    1. Doug Ross

      If Smith or his paid political mouthpieces make the election for Governor about Trump, I won’t vote for him. This isn’t about Trump. This is about South Carolina. Don’t use the same failed playbook Hillary used. Tell me what you will do, not what the other guy did or will do.

        1. Doug Ross

          Because it’s the laziest approach. We all know who Trump is. We all know McMaster supported him. Smith is relatively unknown in this state (despite what you think). If his strongest point for being Governor is that he is against Trump, that’s worthless to me. Talk about what you believe in, not what you hate about the other guy.

          If he wants to run a negative campaign, then make the target Hugh Leatherman and the other old Republicans who run this state. Go after them instead of taking the lazy way out. People who hate Trump are already on board to vote Democrat. Give us something new. Something like real tax reform…

          1. bud

            Doug if you are paying any attention you’ll see how much the Republicans rail endlessly about Nancy Pelosi. Will you also NOT vote for a candidate who brings her up?

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              Speaking of which… she should really retire and let someone fresh and new take over. I was just thinking about this the other day. She’s a liability to the Democrats, because the Republicans have spent years demonizing her, just as they’ve done with Hillary.

              She’s a rallying cry for the Republicans, and an effective one for them. With somebody new, it would take the GOP years or decades to build him or her into such a figure as to be useful to campaign against. You can’t raise as much money with an email that says “Ooooh — Joe Schmoe — SCARY!” as you can with one that says, “Ooooh — Nancy Pelosi — SCARY!”

              Republicans have so much invested in her. Throw them a new player, and they’d have to start from scratch.

              She had her big moment yesterday with her filibuster. She should quit now, go out on a high note — and give her party a chance of recapturing the House this year.

              Oh, and I don’t mean replace her with Steny Hoyer or Jim Clyburn (even though they’re great dancers and all, as this blog revealed a while back). Replace her with a fresh face…

              1. Brad Warthen Post author

                I can’t stand the parties, but of course I think I could run them better than the partisans do.

                Human nature to think that, I guess. Or my nature, anyway…

                1. Doug Ross

                  “denying voters the right to elect whomever they want…”

                  As opposed to creating a system that makes it nearly impossible for non-incumbents to win.

                  Term limits are not lifetime bans. A term limited politician could run for another office or sit out one term. With a 12 year limit, a politician could be in office for 24 out of 26 years if the people wanted that. A little break would be good for many of them to get back out into the real world.

                  But, nope, we’ll keep wheeling Leatherman into the State House until his last breath. That’s better.

                  1. Brad Warthen Post author

                    If people in Florence keep electing him, yes. It’s none of my business. I’m only responsible for Micah Caskey and Nikki Setzler. And it’s no business of the people in Florence if I want to keep on electing them.

                    By the way, I’m quite proud of my freshman representative, Micah. He’s doing a great job, and he’s a breath of fresh air.

                    But you have no idea how very, very unusual that is to have someone that good, someone who GETS IT the way he does, come out of nowhere like that.

                    He was a very rare first-time candidate, which I recognized as soon as I met him. Which is why I didn’t run myself — I didn’t see how I would do better than he would…

                    The guy he faced in the primary runoff was pretty good, too. That happens sometimes. But not often enough….

                2. Doug Ross

                  “He’s doing a great job, ”

                  What has he accomplished? I’m not saying he hasn’t done anything… just it’s typically obvious when someone has done a “great job”. There’s a body of work to point to.

                3. Brad Warthen Post author

                  You won’t understand. You’ll dismiss what I have to say. It’s in the way he takes on issues, quickly grasps them and has the guts to takes stands, and the right ones.

                  Like when he ripped the governor a new one on his spineless, inexcusable veto message last year.

                  But to you, that’s just words, and you don’t value words, which is why you don’t get politics, and we keeping having the same arguments, and we get nowhere.

                  Here I thought I was handing you something you’d like — a freshman who came in and is going a good job. It was my little gift to you, saying that you don’t always have to have experience; some people are naturals.

                  But you can’t even accept THAT; you have to demand proof that this freshman — the kind of politico I thought you valued — is doing a good job.

                  It’s just really, really tiring, Doug…

                  1. Brad Warthen Post author

                    By the way, back when I ran that video of Micah speaking on the veto, he thanked me and sent me a clip of something else he was kind of proud of. I just remembered that I never watched it. But if you’re so inclined, here it is. It’s his questioning of Lonnie Carter of Santee Cooper:

                4. Doug Ross

                  It’s only tiring for you because you want me to accept your world view of how I am supposed to think. Stop trying to convince me to value words over results. You’ll save yourself a lot of energy. I didn’t say he was a bad guy… just trying to find a reasonable standard for applying the word “great” in assessing the performance of a legislator. Their “job” is to enact legislation that protects and improves the lives of the people of his district and the state of South Carolina in general. A “great” job would have a few bullet points to tick off that showed that happened either due to his efforts or his ability to convince others to NOT do something that was harmful.

                  A great job would, in my view, be tied to something like an overhaul of the tax code that made our lives and those of businesses in the state more efficient. A great job would entail exposing corruption within the State House despite the political backlash that might result. There are any number of things that could be done in a great way that begin with words and end with a tangible result.

                  1. Brad Warthen Post author

                    “It’s only tiring for you because you want me to accept your world view of how I am supposed to think.”

                    No, Doug. I ask only that you pay me the respect that I pay you with regard to what you’ve devoted a career to. I trust that you know what you’re talking about in that area. I’d just like to get the same respect.

                    Because we try hard to make government transparent — one of the main goals of what I’ve devoted my life to — you can form the erroneous impression that you know as much as people who deal with it for a living. That’s about like me thinking I know as much as you do about your job because I saw a TV show in which one of the characters does what you do.

                    I would be very wrong to do that.

                    And if you corrected me, I hope I wouldn’t dismiss what you had to say.

                    Have the political views you want. Differ from mine all you want. But when I’m telling you how things operate when elected officials are dealing with those issues we differ on, I’d like to get a little bit of respect of the fact that I know what I’m talking about.

                    I won’t overstate my knowledge. I don’t know nearly as much about procedure and nuts and bolts as Cindi Scoppe, or Nina Brook or any of many other reporters I’ve supervised — I trusted THEM to know those things better than I did. I had to, because I couldn’t be over there doing their jobs for them. When they came back to the office and told me what had happened and why it had happened, I respected what they had to say.

                    I’ll take a back seat to Lynn Teague as well — she’s put in WAY more time at the State House than I have.

                    But I know the system, and the players, and the general ways people interact in politics and why things happen as they do, and I know them better than someone who hasn’t done what I do.

                    It doesn’t make me smarter than you, or anybody else. If we talked about your work — which is COMPLETELY a mystery to me — I’d sound like a toddler by comparison to you. My experience just makes me a guy who’s put in the time…

                5. Doug Ross

                  You are also stuck with a perception of the job of legislator that it is SOOO difficult to comprehend that even an adult with a law degree would be floundering around for, what, five years? before understanding the complexities of what amounts to rubber stamping whatever Hugh Leatherman asks for or else (if you’re a Democrat), whining about what the Republicans are doing.

                  It’s not a difficult job for anyone with an average IQ. I’d put that theory to the test any day of the week if they’d allow IQ tests of the current legislature. Some of them get by on personality more than intelligence.

                  1. Brad Warthen Post author

                    “You are also stuck with a perception of the job of legislator that it is SOOO difficult to comprehend that even an adult with a law degree would be floundering around for, what, five years?”

                    Well, Doug, you’re a smart guy, and you don’t comprehend it.

                    But, at the risk of irritating Juan, you’re right to mention attorneys (like Micah). They tend to have a great head start on non-lawyers when they first take office.

                    I first realized this when I was a reporter covering one of the county commissions (like county councils here) in rural West Tennessee. I was just a dumb kid two or three years out of college, but I’d been covering them long enough for it to be obvious to me that there were certain commissioners who understood the issues they dealt with, and others who were completely lost and didn’t understand much of anything. One day, I was chatting with a local citizen who started complaining about all the danged lawyers on the commission, and then he started rattling off their names…

                    And then I realized he had named all the guys who knew what they were doing. I had never thought before about what they did for a living.

                    Anyway, it’s a pattern I’ve seen many, many times since…

                6. Barry

                  As someone who worked at the statehouse, freshman aren’t really allowed to accomplish anything.

                  Holding that against them is foolish.

                  That is simply not how it works at the statehouse.

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      A couple of points:

      — Democrats don’t take on the Republicans and beat them in the Legislature. The numbers make that impossible (at least in the House — in the Senate, they can outmaneuver one or the other of the two distinct Republican factions). They have to get a significant number of Republicans to agree with them to do anything. This is something that infuriates people like Phil Noble no end, the idea of working with Republicans. But he lives in a partisan fantasy world.

      — As much grief as I gave him at the time, Jim Hodges was NOT “a chair filler until the next election.” He got his lottery, despite our fighting him on it every step of the way. And he also got First Steps, something we supported, enacted. I’m sure there were other things I’m forgetting, but those were the big ones that come to mind, things that happened because he was governor. And of course he got those things by persuading enough Republicans to go along with them.

      — This NOT about some politicians getting paid off to do the bidding of the plastic bag industry. You really have a dark view of humanity, don’t you? Yeah, there may be campaign contributions (which of course it is illegal to convert to personal use) involved, but that’s not the main factor. The main factor was encapsulated by something one lobbyist — I want to say it was Lynn Stokes — said decades ago: “I am an information tool” (which really cracked up some of us at the paper, and we quoted it often). Lobbyists become experts in the issues that affect their clients. It’s a simple fact of life that they know WAY more about each of those issues than lawmakers, who have to be generalists. That makes them able to argue their cases very effectively. More than that, lawmakers rely on them as information sources, to help them bone up on issues. Very often, complex legislation is worked out with lobbyists for opposing sides at the table, and lawmakers relying on them. Why? Because they know all the ins and outs, and possible pitfalls of this or that action.

      Finally… Personally, I think in many ways, Smith would be a better partner for reform-minded legislators such as Speaker Lucas and Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey than Henry McMaster (or Catherine Templeton). Henry is all about striking Trumpish poses, not about governing — with the gas tax bill last year being a prime example. People like Lucas and my representative Micah Caskey need a pragmatic partner they can work with, someone interested in actually getting things done. Looking at both the Republican and Democratic fields, Smith is the guy most likely to play that kind of role — which to ideologues like Noble makes him a bad guy, of course…

      1. Doug Ross

        “You really have a dark view of humanity, don’t you? ”

        Not at all. Only most career politicians and many government workers. They validate my beliefs every single day. It’s a shock when they do something that isn’t driven by greed.

        1. Barry

          I worked for the state for 6 years. There were a few bad apples but I met more honest, integrity filled people working for the state than I ever did working in private business for the last 15 years. Not to mention many of them were professional people making less than market value for their educational level and abilities because they saw what they did as public service.

          I saw coworkers turn down things as simple as a free cup of coffee or a Diet Coke/water because they didnt want to give a hint of being offered anything free by a regulated customer.

          My wife is a government worker. She’s dedicated her life to teaching middle school students. I’ve seen her cry her eyes out over a student that wasn’t doing their best. Ive seen her devasted when one of her young students was killed in a car wreck over Christmas break. I’ve seen many of her coworkers do the same. I’ve seen her principal and grade level administrator at school at 6 am and still there at 8:30 at night trying to work with students- and then doing it again the next day, and the next, etc….

          I’d rank their integrity and dedication to working hard up against anyone (and above most) in any business.

      2. Doug Ross

        So tell me – what are the highlights of Smith’s legislative career.

        The lottery and First Steps for Hodges aren’t exactly major achievements. One is a tax and the other is a waste of tax dollars. Hodges just duplicated what existed in many states for many years before that. And the lottery scholarships for college only server to drive up the cost of tuition even faster. Funny how that worked.. when the “free” money became available, schools coincidentally found all these new costs and projects that required funding.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Yes, as I’ve always argued, it was a price support.

          But even if the scholarships were a good idea, we didn’t have to have a lottery to institute them.

          The Legislature proposed to set up the scholarships and fund them the way anything worth having should be funded — out of normal tax receipts. The state was able to afford it, and without a tax increase, as I recall.

          Hodges refused to go along, because he wanted a lottery, which he had campaigned on.

          Yet another reason why I don’t like campaign promises…

        2. Barry

          I’m not looking up all of them, but here are several where he was a primary sponsor A lot of his bills relate to Veterans issues. There are tons of bills with his name on it along with others. When you are in the minority party in South Carolina, you are at the mercy of the majority.

          Rep Smith sponsored :(all were signed into law)

          Veterans Treatment Court Program Act
          Abandoned Buildings Revitalization Act (tax credits for taxpayers)
          Uniform Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act
          Reemployment rights of the National Guard

      3. Doug Ross

        Are you really going to try and convince us that lawmakers need help to understand how plastic bags work? that they needed some type of cost / benefit analysis to be provided to them to understand that cheap bags are better than reduced trash? I guess that’s one of those things you believe new legislators need years to comprehend.

        Or maybe it’s that they don’t really give a flying f about trash but like to get free meals, tickets, and booze from the lobbyists. Maybe…

        1. Doug Ross

          A radical activist might be persuaded to dump a few thousand plastic bags onto the lawn of the supporters of the bill… maybe that would help with their “education”.

          1. Doug Ross

            It’s the truth according to your perspective. You filter out anything that might suggest otherwise. All I have to go by is the steady stream of legislators doing the perp walk out of the State House. Or Operation Lost Trust – which pretty much was and will always be the way politics works.

            But if you want to actually prove me wrong, get some of the legislators who voted for the legislation to hand over the evidence they used to support their vote. Let’s see what they were taught by the benevolent lobbyists who are pure and good.

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              Yep, that’s right — the truth according to my perspective. The informed perspective. The perspective of a guy who’s spent most of his life interacting closely with these things you judge from afar, based on the aberrations.

              You realize what news is, right — it’s the exceptions from the norm. That’s why crooked folks make the news, and you read about it.

              But I can’t hand you all my years of experience and make you see, especially when you’re so very determined not to. You’ve seen the little bit that you’ve seen, and that’s it. You know it all.

              Well, you don’t. You’re never going to believe that, partly because you don’t know enough to believe it.

              And there’s nothing I can say to get you to trust me, I’ve learned over the years. Which is… wearying…

              And yet, if we don’t trust the people who’ve been there and made themselves experts on something — whether doctors or lawyers airline pilots or the chef in the back who’s cooking your meal — then a complex economy such as ours can’t function. Specialization, and relying on people to do the things they specialize in, is something we have to put faith in. Things fall apart otherwise, and we’re seeing how that happens in these conversations we have that go nowhere…

              1. Doug Ross

                Sorry, but your perception is not reality. In your perfect world, smart, ethical legislators are provided factual information from both sides of any issue and then assess that data to form an unbiased decision that reflects the evidence. It would be great if it worked that way. The reality is that the votes for most issues split down party lines and managed by the party leadership. Tenure = power.

                Lobbyists aren’t educators… they are mercenaries seeking the cheapest path to protecting the interests of their employers. All you need to do is look at the way votes favor those interests to know that it isn’t about education. Realtors, lawyers, car dealers, you name it.. each group pays to get the legislation that helps them financially.

                1. Doug Ross

                  Please explain what motivated Richard Quinn to do what he did (and he’s not the first one or the only one) as it relates to your perception of how things work. What would cause him to think it would be a good idea to try and influence legislation?

                2. Brad Warthen Post author

                  On this subject, you don’t know enough to judge that my “perception is not reality.” Yeah, I know it’s really unseemly of me to say so, but it’s true. I know more about this than you do. Other people who know more about such things than you do have recognized this all my adult life. It’s why I went from being a reporter who covered such things to being the editor over those reporters. It’s why I became a member of the editorial board. It’s why I was editorial page editor. It’s why people read my columns, and eventually my blog, rather than spending that time elsewhere.

                  Everybody has things they’re good at. The consensus among knowledgeable people has long been that this is what Brad’s good at, even if he’s good for nothing else.

                  I shouldn’t have to state any of this. I feel foolish having to do so. But I’m not going to stand still for you telling me I don’t know what I’m talking about.

                  That’s it for me on this subject. Go ahead and have the last word. I’m moving on to other things…

  4. Karen Pearson

    A community can’t outlaw plastic bags. Have you noticed how many end up as trash on the roadside or on the beach? Paper at least biodegrades, and harms comparatively few creatures. Plastic bags, meanwhile continue to choke or clog up a wide variety of animals. I feel sure that while many tourists who visit our beaches feel free to toss their bags wherever, they don’t want to see them all over the roads and beaches. Beach communities especially have strong business interests, as well environmental concerns that favor limiting plastic bags. I wonder if the cities that want to ban plastic bags could at least offer paper ones for free, and charge for those who want plastic.

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