California Senate trashes plastic bag ban

Published: Friday, May. 31, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 3A
Last Modified: Friday, May. 31, 2013 - 6:13 am

A proposal to ban plastic shopping bags in California went the way of so many plastic bags – into the trash – on Thursday when it failed to pass in the state Senate.

Senate Bill 405 by Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, would have prohibited retailers throughout the state from providing plastic shopping bags to consumers beginning in 2015. It also would have authorized stores to charge for paper bags.

Padilla argued that the ban would help wildlife, reduce litter and be good for local governments responsible for cleaning up. Californians would get used to carrying their own reusable shopping bags, many senators said.

"We have an opportunity to do right by Californians' quality of life, our health and the impact on the environment, and be aggressive about how we transition to a cleaner economy in the future," Padilla said.

Unlike prior legislation that attempted to ban plastic bags, Padilla said his bill had the support of grocery stores and other retailers.

"They know that a uniform statewide policy is preferable to a patchwork of dozens upon dozens upon dozens of local ordinances," Padilla said.

But the measure faced opposition from the plastic bag industry, which retained two high-profile lobbying firms in Sacramento and has spent nearly $300,000 on lobbying here in the last year. The industry group known as the American Progressive Bag Alliance issued a statement Thursday thanking the Senate for rejecting the bill and saying it was based on "unfounded stats, junk science and myths."

Several of Padilla's Democratic colleagues voted against the measure, saying it would cut jobs for constituents who work in Los Angeles-area plastic factories and bother consumers who reuse shopping bags for garbage, dog waste and other household needs.

"This bill will ultimately result in eliminating over 700 jobs in my district, and these are hardworking immigrant families," said Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens.

Across California, he said, 2,000 jobs were at stake, a figure repeated in the plastic bag industry group's statement.

Republicans also opposed the bill, saying the Legislature has more important things to work on and should leave bag rules up to municipalities.

"This is not a big issue in my district. It's not like I get phone calls from folks encouraging me to ban plastic bags. In fact, I see a lot of people using plastic bags throughout my district," said Ted Gaines, R-Rocklin.

"All you have to do is go to a local park where someone is walking their dog and you can understand how you can actually use the bag twice."

Padilla said his opponents exaggerated the jobs figures, and that many potentially affected plastic factories could make reusable bags instead of disposable ones.

"I think there is an education campaign necessary," Padilla said after the final 18-17 vote on his bill, which fell three votes short of passage.

Four senators did not vote – Democrats Ben Hueso, Curren Price, Lois Wolk and Rod Wright. Padilla said he hopes to persuade them to vote for his bill and wants to move it from the Senate's trash can to its recycling bin, so it can get another vote next year.

• To read more about this week's legislative action, go to www.sacbee.com/capitolalert

Call Laurel Rosenhall, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 321-1083. Follow her on Twitter @laurelrosenhall.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Laurel Rosenhall



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