California to Enact Nation's First Statewide Plastic Bag Ban

Overcoming initial rejection on the Assembly floor on Monday, bill supporters picked up six votes on Thursday "upon reconsideration" and it passed. The Senate approved it Friday and it is on its way to Gov. Jerry Brown, who has until Sept. 30 to act.
September 1, 2014, 9am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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Scott Detrow of KQED News describes how the identical bill came back from defeat to pass the Assembly three days later. If Gov. Jerry Brown signs the bill (as Plastics News suggested he would), the Golden State will also be the first state to ban single-use plastic bags statewide, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

Key to the bill's passage on the second round on Thursday, August 28 in the Assembly was the support of "a powerful union [which] had shifted its stance on the measure," writes Detrow.

The bill’s brief death, swift resurrection and muddled reasons for renewed life are emblematic of the behind-the-scenes negotiations that dominate the final days of a legislative session.

It all came down to an agreement reached between the California’s United Food and Commercial Workers Union and the supermarket chain Safeway on how grocery stores can spend the minimum 10-cent per paper bag fee they charge shoppers who forget to bring reusable bags. Specifically, "to make sure the fee revenue was being spent where it was supposed to: on the costs of complying with the new regulations; buying paper bags; and educational campaigns for consumers."

The bill pitted environmentalists against the plastics industry, with unions playing the decisive role. Last year, according to the press release of co-author Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima), "a similar bill by Senator Padilla fell 3 votes short of the 21 votes needed for passage from the State Senate. As a result, Padilla and co-authors Sens. Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles) and Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Huntington Park/Long Beach), "included language to address concerns regarding potential job losses at California plastic bag manufacturing facilities."

According to Padilla's press release, the bill will:

  • Prohibit, beginning July 1, 2015, grocery stores and pharmacies from making available single-use plastic bags. If paper bags are offered to customers, they would have to include recycled content. 
  • Prohibit, beginning July 1, 2016, convenience stores and liquor stores from making available single-use plastic       bags. 
  • Grandfather in existing local ordinances [that may charge for paper bags]
  • Provide up to $2 million in competitive loans to businesses transitioning to the manufacture of reusable bags. 
[Hat tip to Roundup for including KQED News Fix in their August 29 compilation of California news].
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Published on Friday, August 29, 2014 in KQED News Fix
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