PHOENIX -- Bisbee is violating state law by outlawing the use of plastic bags, Attorney General Mark Brnovich concluded today.

In a new ruling, Brnovich pointed out that state legislators voted specifically to bar local governments from regulating "auxiliary containers.'' That includes not only the plastic bags that the Bisbee ordinance forbids but also paper bags which the city says retailers can offer, but only with a 5-cent fee.

City officials have acknowledged the conflict. But in a response to the attorney general's initial inquiry they said there is a legitimate reason: the need to prevent wind-blown trash.

But Brnovich said none of that matters.

He said lawmakers get the last word on matters of "statewide concern.'' And he said lawmakers made it clear they believe local regulation of bags fits that definition.

Today's ruling sets the stage for a legal battle.

In issuing his ruling, Brnovich gave the members of the city council 30 days to rescind the ordinance. If they do not, he will tell the state treasurer to withhold the community's state revenue sharing dollars and redistribute them to other communities across the state.

What is more likely to happen before that point is that Bisbee will ask a judge to intercede and delay any loss of dollars until a court can rule.

Flagstaff’s City Council launched an initiative in early 2015 to regulate plastic bags but shelved it after state lawmakers passed the preemption law. The council on a 4-3 vote in December 2015 rejected a request by Bisbee and several other cities to join a lawsuit challenging the state law.

For more on the story, see Wednesday’s Arizona Daily Sun.


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