State Issues

Transportation Initiatives Get Mixed Results in States ​“Fix our damn roads” was the cry from Colorado supporters for increased transportation funds during the 2018 midterm election cycle.


But, but, but, it did not seem to excite voters enough to convince them to raise taxes on themselves so the state could fix its crumbling infrastructure. Three high-profile ballot measures to increase transportation funding failed during the midterm elections in Colorado and Missouri, but California voters upheld a $5.2 billion transportation tax increase, which gives hope to those in other states that there may still be a chance to find funding for desperately needed transportation projects.

It’s a Rocky Road Ahead in Colorado as the 2018 Fix Our Damn Roads Transportation Bond initiative in Colorado was intended to raise funds to help repair and support new infrastructure but was rejected by those who would benefit from it, as was the Go Colorado initiative to raise sales taxes for transportation needs. Even in light of the emphatic “No,” we already know Centennial State voters will be asked about transportation funding in the 2019 elections. That’s because the Colorado General Assembly included language in SB 1 (2018) laying out a contingency plan if both ballot measures failed. The plan calls for a legislatively referred measure to hit the ballots in 2019 seeking approval for $2.34 billion in bonding—less than either of the 2018 measures—as well as certain general fund transfers to the transportation fund.

Why is this important? Because moving scrap materials on the nation’s roadways is becoming more difficult with the declining quality of the nation’s roads and transportation infrastructure. When the roads are crumbling and bridges are no longer able to sustain the weight of trucks hauling scrap, moving scrap becomes difficult. The problems are systemic and threatening states’ economies.

Show Me State Shows Gas Taxes the Door. Missouri voters defeated (with a 53 percent “no” vote) a 10-cent gas tax increase sent to the ballot by the state legislature (HB 1460). Proposition D was on the ballot due to constitutional requirements for voter approval of any tax increase above a certain threshold. It is unknown what the response will be within the state legislature. However, it’s a good bet that transportation funding will return to legislative chamber floors in some fashion, albeit carrying a scarlet letter from the voters.

California Gold Strike. California voters voiced a different opinion on transportation funding. Proposition 6, an effort to repeal legislatively enacted tax increases for transportation, failed with approximately 55 percent of voters choosing to keep the new taxes. This decision is likely to carry more weight nationally than either result in Colorado or Missouri because California’s fight over gas taxes garnered national attention from political stakeholders. Some view it as a bellwether decision on any prospects of a national revenue increase for transportation.

What’s Next?It is clear that maintaining the status quo is not sustainable and is having detrimental impacts on trade and the stream of commerce. The 2018 midterm ballot initiatives are likely the first of many more to come as states face increasing difficulty with funding transportation needs. Scrap recyclers need to be engaged at both local government and state meetings as elected and policy officials try to find ways to fill the gap. The money is going to have to come from somewhere and it appears that anything is on the table. If ISRI members are not at the table, they are on the menu. And, they really don’t want to be on the menu!

Recycled Rubber/Synthetic Turf
States continue to introduce bills targeting synthetic turf infill made from recycled rubber. The year 2018 was a quieter year than usual. To date, there has been no adverse state legislation passed. Bills targeting funding in Maryland and Massachusetts both died. More typical moratoriums in Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Virginia failed, as well.

California AB 2908 came closest to passage,with a Tire Recycling Incentive Program that would have blocked synthetic turf infill and several other products from receiving payments. While the bill was vetoed, the veto message was focused on restrictions on the use of funds and directed CalRecycle to recommend an incentive program as part of its next budget.

Plastics/Packaging/Auxiliary Containers
If adverse news coverage concerning ocean plastics, straws, bags, and other products continues in 2019, recyclers will likely see a growing movement in state legislatures to restrict certain plastics and packaging. This year, Rhode Island Executive Order 18-06 created the Task Force to Tackle Plastics, while New Jersey almost joined the ranks of California and Hawaii with AB 3267, imposing a statewide five cent fee on single-use carryout bags. Although the bill was vetoed, it was for not going far enough, with Governor Murphy calling for "a more robust and comprehensive method of reducing the number of single-use bags in our State."

However, more states have ruled to prohibit local ordinances. Mississippi joined the list of states that have recently passed auxiliary container preemptions, while the Texas Supreme Court ruled in City of Laredo, Texas v. Laredo Merchants Ass'n that Texas Health and Safety Code § 361.0961 preempts a Laredo ban on plastic and paper checkout bags.

Taking a different route to encourage plastics recycling, California SB 854 creates market incentives for plastic beverage containers processed into plastic flake, pellet, sheet, or other forms, with both the "reclaimer" and manufacturers purchasing such stock receiving payments.

Materials Theft
Metals theft legislation being proposed and passed this year was focused less on sweeping changes, than seeking tweaks and corrections to existing law. The year began with a regulatory fix in Texas to ensure protections for recyclers who unknowingly acquire unexploded ordinance, followed by amendments in Arizona, California, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin (all updated in ISRI's Metals Theft Law Database).

The most significant legislative trend targeted areas where scrap metal purchase requirements overlap with vehicle detitling and dismantling statutes. Wisconsin SB 246 clarified that scrap metal processors must follow the same rules as motor vehicle salvage dealers when purchasing motor vehicles, while Arizona, Oklahoma, and Missouri amended motor vehicle and motor vehicle parts requirements in their metals theft statutes.

Continuing the issues overlap trend, California AB 2832 created a Lithium-Ion Car Battery Recycling Advisory Group to advise the legislature on policies for the recovery and recycling of these batteries by April 1, 2022. Electronics issues will continue to grow for vehicle recyclers as hybrid, electric and, potentially, autonomous vehicles take larger shares of the market.

The National Vehicle Mercury Switch Recovery Program (NVMSRP) was extended through December 31, 2021, with acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler signing the continuation on America Recycles Day. The program provides for the transportation, acceptance, and recycling of vehicle mercury switches, as well as liability protections for participating recyclers and dismantlers.

Illinois passed HB 1439, legislation that removes the need for accreditation by R2 or e-Steward for facilities that place CRT glass in storage cells for future retrieval. Accreditation organizations are also prohibited from penalizing recyclers and other parties that do so.

While none of the “right to reuse” bills considered this year passed as intended, the issue is beginning to gain traction in New England. Vermont passed HB 9(A), creating a task force to review the issue and report to the legislature by January 15, 2019. New Hampshire HB 1733 did not pass, but after an interim study group reviewed the bill it was recommended for the coming session.

Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR)
Although EPR/product stewardship legislation wasn't as prevalent in legislatures as in past sessions, bills targeting tires in Connecticut and packaging and other products in Massachusetts continue to pose a threat to existing recycling markets.

Go deeper: If you'd like to find out what changes could impact your company, visit ISRI's State Policy page or contact Danielle Waterfield if you have any questions about legislation that may impact your state.


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