Legislature’s choices boggle the mind

I am a proud lifelong Hoosier, but sometimes, things happen in our legislature that do not make sense to me in any way, shape or form. A statewide bill that prohibits local communities from enacting bans on single-use plastic bags is one of these astounding events that stops me in my tracks.

There has been a campaign in Bloomington for a number of years to get rid of these bags in stores. Many environmental reasons are stated, such as the bags frequently get thrown away rather than reused or recycled.

Pictures are shown of wildlife with bags caught around their necks or other such disastrous results when animals come into contact with this foreign material in their habitats.

While I absolutely agree with all of these reasons, I also feel it’s a psychological issue, that we have become too accustomed to convenience.

We have become so inflexible that we are not willing to make a bare minimum effort to plan ahead with something as simple as storing a few reusable bags in our cars, even when that small act could do so much good. That’s really pretty lazy when you think about it.

Bringing your own bags to stores has been the norm in Europe for years. They look on Americans as some combination of demanding, entitled or even childish when we expect the store to provide them for free. California has enacted a statewide bag ban as well as other areas across the country, and people seem to have adjusted, but asking Hoosiers to make even a minimal change is too much to ask?

The other thing that baffles me is that Indiana lawmakers tend toward the protection of values of a local municipality, such as disputes over holiday displays with a religious theme on courthouse properties. They must decide that if they protect the values of one community then they must respect the values of another community, even if they differ.

After all, this is a microcosm example of the whole debate about states’ rights versus a strong federal government that could supersede laws of an individual state.

We can’t have it both ways; if we argue for freedoms for individual communities to choose, then we can’t go over their heads with a state law squelching what an individual city has enacted.

The only explanation when something as ridiculous as this happens is that somebody somewhere is making some money. It is interesting to note that this bill to prohibit individual communities from enacting bag bans was authored by Rep. Ron Bacon of Evansville. There is a company in Evansville, Berry Plastics, that makes all sorts of packaging, plastic wrap, etc.

I smell something fishy, and it’s not from a dead sea creature who bloated up from accidentally eating a plastic bag by mistake.

What can we do?

I’d say get a grassroots movement going, gather signatures on a petition, and garner support for your issue on a local level — until it gets squelched by big business and industry lobbies on a statewide level.

Still, we can write to our representatives to let them know this is bill is unacceptable. And for our own behavior, we can make sure that we are not feeding the monster by getting new plastic bags from stores.

It takes only a small amount of effort, but if we all brought our own bags consistently, it would have an impact that would make lawmakers sit up and take notice.

Stephanie Haines is a writer from Greenfield who now lives in Bloomington. She can be contacted through her website, www.stephanie haines.com.