A bill that would have allowed Fairfax County to charge businesses for the costs of removing their shopping carts from county property — such as creeks and wooded areas — died in the Virginia General Assembly on Wednesday.
State Sen. Scott Surovell, whose 36th district includes much of the Richmond Highway area, sponsored the bill. It passed the full Virginia Senate earlier this month on a 21-19 vote. But a House subcommittee voted 4-4 on a motion to recommend the bill move forward, effectively killing the bill before it could go before the entire house.
“Opponents said I was ‘blaming the victim,'” Surovell wrote on Facebook after the defeat. “When I find 250 shopping carts in a creek, they are no longer a victim — they are tolerating loose carts for customer convenience.”
Surovell, who worked with Lee District Supervisor Jeff McKay to craft the bill, leads annual cleanups of Little Hunting Creek in Hybla Valley. He says he’s pulled more than 250 carts of the creek since he began. Other groups also clean the creek regularly, including the Friends of Little Hunting Creek, whose members trekked to Richmond to testify in favor of the bill.
“We’ve been doing these cleanups since 2002,” said Betsy Martin, the president of the Friends of Little Hunting Creek. “And it really is a horrible problem we have with these shopping carts getting in the creek.”
Surovell and Martin noted that the owners of the carts had shown little interest in retrieving carts once they were taken from their parking lots. Surovell said the new bill would not punish the companies, but simply allow the county to bill the companies for carts that they had removed.
“This would incentivize these companies to better police their carts,” said Surovell.
Rob Bohannon, representing the Retail Merchants Association, argued against the bill on Wednesday. Bohannon said that while he sympathized with the problem, it wasn’t fair to make companies pay for retrieving carts taken from their stores.
“This doesn’t do anything to change the behavior of the people dumping the shopping carts,” Bohannon said. “All it does is put it on the backs of the retailers.”