Senate, House approve bill to prevent local regulation of single-use plastic, containers

During heavy periods of rain, Lake Cumberland accumulates tons of human-imposed debris every season. Waitboro Recreation area catches the brunt of debris, trash, metals and plastic that deposits chemicals into the water and threaten the habitat for aquatic species and birds in Kentucky and beyond.

The Tennessee General Assembly has made an art of pre-emption. This week, Gov. Bill Lee signed legislation that passed both chambers to prevent cities and counties from regulating single-use plastic and containers.

Under this new law, cities and counties will not be able to pass any ordinances to regulate single-use plastic bags, containers or items such as straws. 

Though no local governments have tried to enact rules that would be affected by this law, there is an excellent reason to start thinking about local ways to reduce single-use plastic items: the Tennessee River is one of the most plastic-polluted rivers in the world. 

A 2019 report, conducted by geology and hydrology professor Dr. Martin Knoll of the University of the South in Sewanee, concluded that microplastic levels in the Tennessee River are among the highest ever measured. The study says half — 48 percent — of the microplastic in the Tennessee River is polyethylene (plastic bags) and another 17 percent is polypropylene, a water-resistant plastic used widely in food packaging.

And its not just our rivers and fish that are affected. On the Senate floor, Sen. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains, told a story about a farmer having problems with plastic bags getting tangled in his cotton fields and spoiling his crop. “They can’t separate the plastic from the cotton,” he said.

That Tennessee farmer is not alone. Plastic contamination on America’s cotton farms is a major issue, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Sen. Jeff Yarbro, D-Nashville, reflected on Sen. Niceley’s story as a case in point: there are multitude of reasons localities would look at regulating things differently.

In Tennessee, the best laws passed by the General Assembly solve the problems facing our families, businesses and future. And the worst laws prevent local governments from even trying.

How they voted: House Bill 1021 & Senate Bill 431
Representatives who voted to prevent local governments from managing single-use plastic waste:
Rep. Charlie Baum, R-Murfreesboro, District 37
Rep. Clark Boyd, R-Lebanon, District 46
Rep. Rush Bricken, R-Tullahoma, District 47
Rep. David Byrd, R-Waynesboro, District 71
Rep. Kent Calfee, R-Kingston, District 32
Rep. Dale Carr, R-Sevierville, District 12
Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah, District 29
Speaker Glen Casada, R-Franklin, District 63
Rep. Scott Cepicky, R-Culleoka, District 64
Rep. Mark Cochran, R-Englewood, District 23
Rep. Jim Coley, R-Bartlett, District 97
Rep. John Crawford, R-Kingsport, District 1
Rep. Michael Curcio, R-Dickson, District 69
Rep. Martin Daniel, R-Knoxville, District 18
Rep. Clay Doggett, R-Pulaski, District 70
Rep. Bill Dunn, R-Knoxville, District 16
Rep. Rick Eldridge, R-Morristown, District 10
Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, District 11
Rep. Andrew Farmer, R-Sevierville, District 17
Rep. Ron Gant, R-Rossville, District 94
Rep. Johnny Garrett, R-Goodlettsville, District 45
Rep. Bruce Griffey, R-Paris, District 75
Rep. Curtis Halford, R-Dyer, District 79
Rep. Mark Hall, R-Cleveland, District 24
Rep. Kirk Haston, R-Lobelville, District 72
Rep. David Hawk, R-Greeneville, District 5
Rep. Esther Helton, R-East Ridge, District 30
Rep. Gary Hicks, R-Rogersville, District 9
Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, District 7
Rep. Timothy Hill, R-Blountville, District 3
Rep. John Holsclaw, Jr., R-Elizabethton, District 4
Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden, District 76
Rep. Bud Hulsey, R-Kingsport, District 2
Rep. Chris Hurt, R-Halls, District 82
Rep. Curtis Johnson, R-Clarksville, District 68
Rep. Kelly Keisling, R-Byrdstown, District 38
Rep. Sabi Kumar, R-Springfield, District 66
Rep. Justin Lafferty, R-Knoxville, District 89
Rep. William Lamberth, R-Portland, District 44
Rep. Tom Leatherwood, R-Arlington, District 99
Rep. Mary Littleton, R-Dickson, District 78
Rep. Susan Lynn, R-Mt. Juliet, District 57
Rep. Pat Marsh, R-Shelbyville, District 62
Rep. Debra Moody, R-Covington, District 81
Rep. Jerome Moon, R-Maryville, District 8
Rep. Brandon Ogles, R-Franklin, District 61
Rep. Dennis Powers, R-Jacksboro, District 36
Rep. John Ragan, R-Oak Ridge, District 33
Rep. Jay Reedy, R-Erin, District 74
Rep. Tim Rudd, R-Murfreesboro, District 34
Rep. Iris Rudder, R-Winchester, District 39
Rep. Lowell Russell, R-Vonore, District 21
Rep. Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, District 25
Rep. Jerry Sexton, R-Bean Station, District 35
Rep. Paul Sherrell, R-Sparta, District 43
Rep. Robin Smith, R-Hixson, District 26
Rep. Mike Sparks, R-Smyrna, District 49
Rep. Bryan Terry, R-Murfreesboro, District 48
Rep. Rick Tillis, R-Lewisberg, District 92
Rep. Chris Todd, R-Jackson, District 73
Rep. Ron Travis, R-Dayton, District 31
Rep. James “Micah” Van Huss, R-Gray, District 6
Rep. Kevin Vaughan, R-Collierville, District 95
Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver, R-Lancaster, District 40
Rep. Mark White, R-Memphis, District 83
Rep. Ryan Williams, R-Cookeville, District 42
Rep. Dave Wright, R-Corryton, District 19
Rep. Jason Zachary, R-Knoxville, District 14

Rep. Yusuf Hakeem, D-Chattanooga, District 28

Representatives voting No against the bill:
Rep. Bill Beck, D-Nashville, District 51
Rep. Karen Camper, D-Memphis, District 87
Rep. Jesse Chism, D-Memphis, District 85
Rep. John Ray Clemmons, D-Nashville, District 55
Rep. Barbara Cooper, D-Memphis, District 86
Rep. Vincent Dixie, D-Nashville, District 54
Rep. Bob Freeman, D-Nashville, District 56
Rep. G. A. Hardaway, D-Memphis, District 93
Rep. Jason Hodges, D-Clarksville, District 67
Rep. Darren Jernigan, D-Old Hickory, District 60
Rep. Gloria Johnson, D-Knoxville, District 13
Rep. Harold Love, Jr., D-Nashville, District 58
Rep. Larry Miller, D-Memphis, District 88
Rep. Bo Mitchell, D-Nashville, District 50
Rep. Jason Potts, D-Nashville, District 59
Rep. Jason Powell, D-Nashville, District 53
Rep. Rick Staples, D-Knoxville, District 15
Rep. Mike Stewart, D-Nashville, District 52
Rep. Dwayne Thompson, D-Cordova, District 96
Rep. Joe Towns, Jr., D-Memphis, District 84
Rep. John Mark Windle, D-Livingston, District 41

Representatives Present, Not Voting
Rep. John DeBerry, D-Memphis, District 90
Rep. Antonio Parkinson, D-Memphis, District 98

Absent or Missed Vote:
Rep. London Lamar, D-Memphis, District 91
Rep. Johnny Shaw, D-Bolivar, District 80
Rep. Dan Howell, R-Cleveland, District 22
Rep. Patsy Hazelwood, R-Signal Mountain, District 27
Rep. Bob Ramsey, R-Maryville, District 20
Rep. Bill Sanderson, R-Kenton, District 77
Rep. Sam Whitson, R-Franklin, District 65

Tennessee Senate
Senators voting to prevent local government from managing single-use plastic waste:
Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, District 9
Sen. Janice Bowling, R-Tullahoma, District 16
Sen. Richard Briggs, R-Knoxville, District 7
Sen. Rusty Crowe, R-Johnson City, District 3
Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, District 10
Sen. Dolores Gresham, R-Somerville, District 26
Sen. Ferrell Haile, R-Gallatin, District 18
Sen. Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald, District 28
Sen. Ed Jackson, R-Jackson, District 27
Sen. Jack Johnson, R-Franklin, District 23
Sen. Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol, District 4
Sen. Becky Massey, R-Knoxville, District 6
Sen. Frank Nicely, R-Strawberry Plains, District 8
Sen. Mark Pody, R-Lebanon, District 17
Sen. Shane Reeves, R-Murfreesboro, District 14
Sen. Paul Rose, R-Covington, District 32
Sen. Steve Southerland, R-Morristown, District 1
Sen. John Stevens, R-Huntingdon, District 24
Sen. Art Swann, R-Maryville, District 2
Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, District 11
Sen. Dawn White, R-Murfreesboro, District 13
Sen. Ken Yager, R-Kingston, District 12
Lt. Governor Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, District 5

Senators voting against the bill:
Sen. Steve Dickerson, R-Nashville, District 20
Sen. Rosalind Kurita, I-Clarksville, District 22

Sen. Raumesh Akbari, D-Memphis, District 29
Sen. Brenda Gilmore, D-Nashville, District 19
Sen. Sara Kyle, D-Memphis, District 30
Sen. Katrina Robinson, D-Memphis, District 33
Sen. Jeff Yarbro, D-Nashville, District 21

Voted Present, Not Voting:
Sen. Kerry Roberts, R-Springfield, District 25

Absent or did not vote
Sen. Paul Bailey, R-Sparta, District 15
Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, District 31