For their part, supporters of tougher laws against bags say they see growing interest, driven by public concern over litter, by a desire to protect the oceans and wildlife and by cities wanting to reduce cleanup and drainage costs associated with bags.
Seaholm sees the political battleground as more balanced, with the industry's successes in stopping bag laws not getting as much attention.
APBA argues that support for bag bans and fees is most active in states where the environmental group Surfrider Foundation has the strongest local chapters, including in New England.
"Really where that comes from is that's where the strongest organization of groups like the Surfrider Foundation are, in a place where they haven't already achieved some regulation, like California," Seaholm said.
Surfrider, which is based in San Clemente, Calif., has 80 chapters nationwide. It made plastics waste one of its four priorities this year and considers plastic pollution "one of the greatest threats to the health of our ocean ecosystems."
The group said on its website its focuses this year include banning plastic bags in Massachusetts and polystyrene foam in California and working with restaurants to reduce single-use plastics.
"Plastic pollution is a priority for the organization this year along with our water quality work," said Surfrider Legal Director Angela Howe in an email. "This is the first year that we are prioritizing in this manner."
Howe said there's a growing network of groups addressing plastics, including targeting single-use plastics, promoting zero-waste principles and opposing incineration of plastic trash.
"I think there is a trend toward bag bans activating in areas that have not already done so," Howe said. "The rest of the nation have noted places like Hawaii and California that have these policies in place and are enjoying a cleaner environment because of it."
Both APBA and Surfrider identify South Carolina as one such hot spot.
A few coastal communities in the state have passed plastic bag restrictions, and others, including several in Beaufort County, are moving to enact similar laws, said Emily Cedzo, the land, water and wildlife program director for the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League, in Charleston.
"There is an extremely significant amount of momentum locally to better protect resources and regulate plastics better," she said. The conservation league has made plastic pollution one of its priorities.
Even cities that do not restrict bags have concerns, she said, noting that the mayor of Charleston, the state's largest city, convened a task force in 2016 to study minimizing plastic bags.
Cedzo believes the industry's push for a state law overruling cities, also known as pre-emption, comes because industry sees bag bans and fees picking up support.
"As they are seeing local communities passing these ordinances, I think they feel the need to push even harder on the pre-emption bill," she said.
The pre-emption bill was narrowly stalled last year, in the South Carolina House, in a "tough fight," she said, and is expected to return for this year's legislative session.
Cedzo calls state pre-emption bad policy: "Local governments have the right to solve local problems with local solutions."
Seaholm, however, said APBA pushes for statewide laws because bags or packaging should be regulated at the state level. Otherwise, there will be a patchwork of differing local rules. APBA refers to such bills as uniformity legislation.
APBA argues bag bans and fees are misguided because bags are recyclable and can have a lower carbon footprint than many alternatives, including reusable bags.
Seaholm said the bag debate in South Carolina is driven by Surfrider and the conservation league.
"This is a great example of why is there an issue in South Carolina: It's because there's an organized effort to do something. It comes down to two groups," he said. "They've made this just part of their agenda to go out and promote bag bans of all sorts."