Christine Stuart file photo

A bill, which asks consumers to pay a nickel for every plastic or paper bag they receive at a grocery or retail store, passed the Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee Monday by a vote of 28 to 22.

A handful of legislators were absolutely torn about the bill.

Sen. John Fonfara, D-Hartford, said at this time he has to vote against the bill because his constituents wouldn’t be able to afford it. To people just getting by, “five-cents means a lot,” he said.

Rep. Patricia Widlitz, D-Guilford, argued that the five-cent fee encourages good environmental behavior. She said by charging a fee it encourages people to change their behavior and reminds them to bring their reusable bags to the store.

According to the Office of Fiscal Analysis the bill would generate $10 million for the state in fiscal year 2010 and $20 million in fiscal year 2011.
Rep. Vincent Candelora, R-North Branford, encouraged his legislative colleagues to vote against the bill. He said the longer the bill stays alive, the longer it remains a distraction. He said the legislature should be more focused on the budget deficit.

Rep. Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said the private sector is already focused on helping people change their behaviors. She said she sops at Trader Joes where consumers who bring in reusable bags are entered into raffles. Rep. Mary Ann Carson, R-New Fairfield, said Stew Leonard’s raffles off a $50 coupon to consumers with reusable bags.

On March 25, Gov. M. Jodi Rell said, “I hate the idea.” She said she likes the carrot approach where the grocery store gives you a nickel back for using a reusable cloth bag.