Update: Plastic bag ban passes Assembly

Update: Plastic bag ban passes Assembly

Alex PadillaUpdate, 2:26 pm, Aug. 28: On a second vote, SB 270 just passed the Assembly.

Despite strong momentum and an air of inevitability, California state legislators hit a major snag on Aug. 27 in their plans for a statewide ban on single-use plastic shopping bags.

It was a  rebuke for SB270, introduced by state Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Pacoima. Despite a last-ditch effort to amend the bill, it lost the support of Democrats wary of slipping a divisive bill through the Legislature in an election year.

But the concerns of Democratic freshmen and relative environmental moderates weren’t to blame for the initial loss of support that propelled SB270 to a floor vote. In a surprise twist of interest-group politics, the grocery store workers’ union balked at the bill’s proposal to charge customers 10 cents for paper or legally sanctioned reusable plastic bags.

The bill got 38 votes for and 33 against, but that did not meet the 41-vote threshold to pass.

At first blush, it might have seemed that grocery workers would embrace the provision, which Republicans slammed as a gravy train for a big, politically connected business interests. After all, the California Grocers Association decided to throw its weight behind SB270 once Padilla ensured that the grocery business would keep the proceeds of the 10-cent levies.

Corporate profits

But as the Los Angeles Times reported, the United Food and Commercial Workers Western States Council grew convinced SB270 would enrich grocery corporations alone, not workers, local stores or surrounding communities. The 10-cent fees add up. If a family uses just three bags a day, the tally comes to more than $100 a year, money that could go to more food, clothing or a kid’s schoolbook.

That led Padilla to throw together his late amendment, which would earmark the 10-cent fees for costs incurred by the new regulagtion.

Padilla also tried to calm bag manufacturers’ nerves by including changeover loans in his bill. According to SB270’s language:

“[$2 million] is hereby appropriated from the Recycling Market Development Revolving Loan Subaccount in the Integrated Waste Management Account to the department for the purposes of providing loans for the creation and retention of jobs and economic activity in this state for the manufacture and recycling of plastic reusable grocery bags that use recycled content, including postconsumer recycled material.”

Basically the state would let bag manufacturers borrow cheap money to make as seamless as possible a production and employment switch from single-use to thicker, multi-use plastic bags. 

A change in momentum

Supporters of the bag ban pointed to the success of similar plastic bag bans at the municipal level. Over 100 counties or cities, including Los Angeles and San Francisco, have passed regulations prohibiting the convenient sacks. The failure of a statewide measure in California follows on the heels of unsuccessful legislative efforts in Massachusetts and Washington.

The inability of plastic bag bans to scale upward to the state level reflects the power of suburban and rural interests, which often are different from those in large cities. California Democrats representing lower-income and Central Valley voters held back from casting their ballots for Padilla’s bill, as CBS Sacramento observed; Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced, called SB270 a departure from California’s “long history of policy around food affordability and availability.”

What’s more, city-level changes created a series of small battles that bag manufacturers and the grocery industry have proven reluctant to commit massive resources toward.

But state-level politics has been shown to shift the lobbying terrain in favor of the biggest corporate players affected by bag laws — groups with competing and conflicting interests. So the prospect of a statewide ban threw both sides of the debate into action.

The American Progressive Bag Alliance, a manufacturers’ group, hired top-shelf PR company Edelman and paid lobbyists over $640,000 to decry SB270 as a huge and calculated giveaway to the grocery industry.

A glimpse of the future

All told, the proposed bag ban revealed the power of the cross-party political currents sweeping through state and national politics this election season. It pitted some corporate interests against others. It put unions on the side of small-town Republican lawmakers. And it pulled apart the longstanding alliance between working-class Democrats in California’s interior and big-city Democrats with a fashionable and wealthy white-collar base.

These unexpected tensions and strange bedfellows could bedevil Democrats in November, in 2016, and beyond. With California Democrats still hoping for a way to save face, Padilla has one more shot at salvaging the bill before the year’s legislative session ends this week.

How he might pull it off, however, remains unclear.

12 comments

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  1. Martha Montelongo
    Martha Montelongo 28 August, 2014, 12:32

    We just moved from the east end of Whittier, CA, a community with a mix of both Hispanic and non, that made for our junk mail to be about half and half, Spanish and English. We shopped at the local Stater Brothers, a store that isn’t as fashionable, or pretty as is the big name store across the street in the shopping center with a CVS, UPS Store, a Radio Shack and some smaller stores, but their prices were slightly lower and the quality of meat was very good. I miss Stater Brothers very much.

    We moved to the valley, as it’s called in SoCal terms. We live in the low hills, in an area called West Hills, next to the Chatsworth Reservior. It’s lovely, but no bags, anywhere in the valley. It’s been an ordinance since January. Everyone is conditioned to it, but I wonder what I’ll do when I run out of my saved bags from Stater Brothers. I’ve always reused them for trash, or for shopping if they were clean enough. I also use my big blue IKEA bags, and I use a large ice chest and a smaller one which I keep in the car, when I do a large grocery shop, and I refuse to pay 10 cents for a bag that costs a couple of cents to make. But I don’t put my meat in my reusable shopping bags, because the meat packages leak, no matter how much you try to avoid it, and that is a health problem, if you’re having to reuse those plastic bags, or a waste of water, which is so expensive now, if you have to wash your plastic shopping bags. Forget about reusing a paper bag. If you use it for trash, then in goes in the landfill with the trash, and gets buried, not recycled.

    I wonder what all of the maids and gardeners and factory workers and janitors and retail employees, and service industry employees who live in the valley do now that their cost of living has been moved upward for politics.

    I prefer plastic for environmental reasons, because it takes far less resources to fabricate, and the hype about paper bags v plastic is just that. They both go in the landfill, unless the paper bags are put in the recycle bins, but even then, do they really get turned into compost? Or do they get buried in a landfill anyway?

    I am happy for all the folks who live in my former hometown, because they won’t be having to fork over more money to get by. The stores in my home town have long encouraged reusing bags, and using reusable bags, and I have done so for over a decade, while I lived in Whittier, and before, in Santa Cruz.

    But there were times when I went shopping unexpectedly in Whittier, and I was always glad to get a few more plastic bags I could later use for kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom trash can lining later.

    Alex Padilla grew up in the valley, in Pacoima. I wonder how the folks from his hometown feel about their higher costs or greater inconveniences for grocery shopping?

    Reply this comment
    • bob
      bob 29 August, 2014, 13:05

      I use the plastic grocery bags for waste container liners, to pick up the dog and cat waste from my neighbors pets who [email protected] in my yard (these neighbors are Democrats, btw), for storing various items and for other uses.

      Once this ban goes into effect I will have to buy plastic bags for all these things.

      Also, the stores have bins where you can put your unused plastic bags for recycling and my garbage collection service also recycles them.

      So why are plastic bags such a problem and if they have to be outlawed why do the Demoncrats make the stores charge us 10 cents or more for paper bags.

      This will hurt the poor and middle class the most as does so much bad legislation the DemoNcrats shove down our throats.

      I can never understand why middle class people vote for Democrats. It’s like chickens voting for Colonel Sanders.

      Reply this comment
      • bob
        bob 29 August, 2014, 13:06

        This will hurt the poor and middle class the most as does so much bad legislation the DemoNcrats shove down our throats.

        Just like AB 32 which is going to hike gas prices 8 to 10 cents per gallon next year and even more in the following years.

        Reply this comment
  2. Leza Fremont
    Leza Fremont 28 August, 2014, 12:51

    Typical last-minute effort to seal the deal of a badly written piece of legiclation to begin with. I work in State gov’t and review proposed legislation regularly related to my department. It’s almost always awful and never enhances what it’s amending. Y’all should focus on fixing what already in place and not layering bills with GARBAGE!

    Reply this comment
  3. T Mind of Ted Your God
    T Mind of Ted Your God 28 August, 2014, 20:03

    we don’t need the plastic bags–plastic end up in the ocean or in landfills and lasts forever–Good job Sacto!

    Reply this comment
    • Thomas
      Thomas 28 August, 2014, 23:36

      What do you mean “we”? Why don’t you try to convince your locality to try and pass a ban, if they want to make that mistake.

      Offering savings and FORCED profit to the grocery corporations, all on the taxpayers dime. Using MY money to restrict my access to a product.

      Disgusting.

      Reply this comment
    • Novaks47
      Novaks47 29 August, 2014, 08:29

      Zero evidence of the things ending up in the ocean. And as for them sitting in landfills? So what! Going off the assumption that they last forever, which in itself is silly, if they sit forever in a landfill, of what consequence is this? What are landfills for if not for a place to pile and contain refuse? Do you even know how those bags are made? From your comment, I’m guessing the answer is no. I’ll give you a hint : They’re far cheaper and “greener” to produce than those re-usable cloth ones made in China.

      Reply this comment
    • Kenneth Fougner
      Kenneth Fougner 30 August, 2014, 06:44

      Store Plastic Bags “Decinagrate”
      The Bags are made with a
      Soy Based Material so they
      will Decompose in the ground
      or above. I live in the Desert
      and it is windy here, so when
      bags get blown out into the Desert
      No One has to worry much
      In a Couple weeks those Bags
      Will be Dust.
      This is just another ploy to get more
      $ Money $ into the pockets of whoever
      our Politicians want,
      Just to keep them in office !

      Reply this comment
  4. Dan Wheeler
    Dan Wheeler 29 August, 2014, 05:42

    So now that plastic bags will be banned so we can appease “Mother Earth”, I guess I’ll just leave my dogs poop on the sidewalk or some “Tree Hungers” yard since I won’t have a plastic bag to pick it up with!

    Reply this comment
  5. Ulysses Uhaul
    Ulysses Uhaul 29 August, 2014, 09:22

    Yep…..Reusable bags.

    People will be dropping in the streets sprouting salmonella spores and ejecting green bile.

    Yep…..reusable bags.

    Psst…..Are these droppers contagious?

    Reply this comment
  6. Spurwing Plover
    Spurwing Plover 31 January, 2016, 06:44

    Mass enviroemntalism and eco-wackery leads to outright green stupidity

    Reply this comment

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