JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Rep. Dan Shaul, R-Imperial, has received a slew of attention since starting his first term almost two months ago. Shaul is also the Missouri Grocer Association state director, and he has sponsored a bill that would allow all merchants to provide customers with a choice between paper and plastic bags – no city, county, or other municipal government. would be able to be able to ban, charge a fee, or tax the use of paper or plastic bags for purchases from any store.
Shaul is passionate about the subject, and upon meeting him, he may ask you, “Paper or plastic?”
If the question doesn’t take you off guard, he follows up with, “Aren’t you glad you had a choice?”
The nation’s coasts have political divisions trailblazig in banning, feeing, or taxing bag use. Residents can provide their own bags and not be charged, but in some cities, shoppers are charged extra for a store-provided bag or they’re forced to carry out their goods if they’ve failed to bring their own.
Plastic bags have long had a bad rap from environmentalists because the non-biodegradable materials harm the environment, or, more precisely, don’t naturally decompose, and stay in landfills for years. Paper bags lack popularity in some areas because, despite generally being recycled, they are larger and more cumbersome. And in the choice between long-lasting plastic and straight-from-the-tree paper, environmentalists are left scratching their heads.
But, to Shaul, bags are simplt a choice businesses can make for themselves, which is why he filed HB722.
This morning, the Huffington Post ran an AP article on the legislation. But, the national attention started February 9, when Mother Jones ran an article titled, “Bad Man Wants to Ban Bag Bans.”
Missouri citizens from across the state have contacted Shaul, many applauding, but other having a bone to pick with the sponsor. Today, a resident of the state of Oregon contacted Shaul and told him just how wrong he was to file the bill. Unlike many elected officials, Shaul has been open to talking to those outside of his district and outside of the state.
What’s Shaul say? He equated any legislation to having the same power of perception as some of the 2nd floor murals – your view depends where you stand. More importantly, he’s thankful for the opposite perception being shared with him.
“I thank them for sharing their opinions and I talk to them. There are two sides to filing a bill and I thank people for sharing their stance. I tell them why I filed the bill and they may not agree with my opinion, but I thank them.”
Shaul says many of his House and a few Senate colleagues have vocalized their support for the bill to him.
The bill left committee today, becoming one of the earliest freshman sponsored bill to make it out of committee.
Rachael Herndon was the editor at The Missouri Times and also produced This Week in Missouri Politics, published Missouri Times Magazine, and co-hosted the #MoLeg podcast. She joined The Missouri Times in 2014, returning to political reporting after working as a campaign and legislative staffer.
Rachael studied at the University of Missouri – Columbia. She lives in Jefferson City with her husband, Brandon, and their two children.