HOUSTON A controversial plan to phase out plastic shopping bags in Houston stirred up such a hornet s nest of complaints that the city councilman behind it has backed away from his proposed ordinance. Now the whole idea may just die in a committee.

Councilman Ed Gonzales brought up the idea of writing an ordinance phasing out plastic shopping bags in Houston by offering it as an amendment to the city budget. But after hearing complaints from irate citizens, Gonzales crawfished away from the toughest requirement of his amendment and insisted he never wanted to ban the bags in the first place.

It got sidetracked to strictly talk about a ban, Gonzales said. This is simply a discussion to say, How can we phase out plastic bags in our city?

Other cities have banned the bags, which have become such ubiquitous littering nuisances that they ve been criticized as urban tumbleweeds. They re especially problematic in waterways, where they cling to branches in rising bayous and block drainage.

But the idea of phasing them out in Houston touched a nerve, triggering a wave of complaints from citizens speaking to council members.

Instead, council passed a watered-down version of Gonzales original proposal, tossing it to a committee that s supposed to merely talk about phasing out the bags. Unlike with the original idea, the committee s not required to draft an ordinance.

In other words, they re supposed to talk about maybe considering doing something.

Then again, the whole idea may just fade away without much further discussion.

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