Nicolello surveys residents on plastic bag law following his opposition to the bill

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Susan Brockmann, a member of the environmental non-profit group All Our Energy, wore 500 plastic bags during last Monday's press conference when Nassau County legislators announced a proposed bill to add a plastic bag fee. (Photo by Rebecca Klar)

Richard Nicolello, presiding officer of the Nassau County Legislature, is surveying residents on their thoughts on a plastic bag fee, following his opposition to the bill presented by members of the Democratic minority.

The law, sponsored or co-sponsored by all seven Democrats in the minority, was announced at a news conference last Monday.

In the email, Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) notes Suffolk County’s five-cent bag fee law.

He asks residents whether they support adopting a similar law in Nassau.

The email is being sent to Nicolello’s e-team list, a collection of email addresses gathered over the years of residents who have written to him, he said, as well as to a random sampling of people in his district.

The email is the equivalent of what Nicolello does when he sees constituents at community events, he said.

“It’s simply to see what people think about it, and getting some responses,” Nicolello said.

Nicolello, the county’s top GOP official, previously said in an interview that for “whatever marginal benefit there might be” the fee is another regulation and burden on people.

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran (D-Baldwin) joined minority members in support for the bill.

“We have to protect our environment, and to do that we all must play a part,” Curran said at the news conference. “Minimizing the use of plastic bags is a logical and important step in keeping our bays and oceans free of the perils of plastic bags and the dangers they pose to our marine life.”

The elected officials were joined by environmental activists and policy advocates also supporting the bill.

The law would require a five-cent fee for single-use plastic bags at supermarkets.

Money collected would go to the stores.

Residents who use the New York state Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or New York state Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children are not subject to the proposed fee.

Since similar laws were passed in Suffolk and Long Beach, plastic bag usage has gone down by 70 to 80 percent, according to Nassau County Legislator Debra Mulé (D-Freeport).

The minority’s bill follows an April announcement from Gov. Andrew Cuomo of a bill to ban plastic bags state-wide.

Mulé said it is necessary for a separate county law because it is not known when the state law would pass, and because the proposed state ban on plastic bags would likely just increase the use of paper bags.

If approved, the county’s law would fine stores that do not abide by the fee.

Fines would start at $250 for a first-time violation and go up to $750 for a third-time violation. If violations continue, each day would constitute a separate, additional fine.

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