Former state Del. Shane Robinson, who chaired Montgomery County’s 24-member House delegation for four years before narrowly losing a 2018 re-election bid, is back in Annapolis.
Robinson, who lives in Montgomery Village, last month became executive director of Baltimore-based Trash Free Maryland, a nonprofit organization. He recently registered to lobby the Maryland General Assembly on behalf of the group’s environmental agenda.
Trash Free Maryland is part of a coalition pushing during this year’s session for statewide legislation to ban plastic bags at the point of sale — and to impose a 10-cent charge for paper bags, to be retained by retailers to help defray the cost. If enacted, it would represent an expansion of the current Montgomery County law that imposes a 5-cent fee on both plastic and paper bags to encourage reusable totes.
Pending action on a statewide measure, Baltimore Mayor Bernard “Jack” Young on Monday signed a bill the City Council passed to ban plastic bags and impose a 5-cent charge on paper bags in Maryland’s largest city, to take effect in early 2021.
The proposed plastic bag ban is sponsored by Del. Brooke Lierman of Baltimore, who last year teamed with state Sen. Cheryl Kagan of Rockville to enact another of Trash Free Maryland’s top priorities: a ban on restaurants and grocery stores from using most plastic foam products. When that law takes effect in July, it will make Maryland the first state to adopt such a prohibition.
Robinson said in a phone interview that his group also will lobby for passage of a couple of other bills this session.
One, authored by Del. Sara Love of Bethesda, is aimed at reducing use of plastic straws. It would require restaurant patrons to ask for a straw rather than having one automatically provided.
Another, authored by state Sen. Clarence Lam of Howard County, would prohibit mass releases of helium balloons. Concerns about birds becoming entangled in such releases prompted Queen Anne’s County on Maryland’s Eastern Shore to ban them late last year. Frederick County recently passed a similar law.
“I’ve always been very passionate about the environment, and this is a very specific and targeted mission that’s really important,” Robinson said of his new post. As he adjusts to a different role in Annapolis, “it’s really rewarding to be focused on one thing,” he added.
Robinson was first elected to the House of Delegates in 2010, and chaired the county’s House delegation from 2015 until 2018 — when he fell short of renomination to a third term in District 39 by fewer than 80 votes in the Democratic primary. His defeat was attributed in part to the changing demographics of a legislative district that extends from Gaithersburg through Germantown to Clarksburg.
While serving in the House of Delegates, Robinson was also U.S. executive director of the Ehlers-Danlos Society, which works to increase research and awareness of Ehlers-Danlos syndromes — a genetic disorder involving the body’s connective tissue. He left that post to join Trash Free Maryland, where his responsibilities besides lobbying include raising public awareness of trash pollution and partnering with other organizations on cleanup efforts.
“But the bottom line is we could do trash pickups until the end of time. What we really need to do is address the root causes,” Robinson said. “And that’s why legislation and then regulatory changes are a big part of [achieving] our mission.”