Capitol Alert

Scaled-back plastic microbead ban survives California Senate

Researcher Chelsea Rochman holds a dollop of commercially available facial scrub containing microbeads in her lab at UC Davis. The California Senate on Friday approved a scaled-back version of Assembly Bill 888, which would ban the sale of products containing plastic microbeads after 2020.
Researcher Chelsea Rochman holds a dollop of commercially available facial scrub containing microbeads in her lab at UC Davis. The California Senate on Friday approved a scaled-back version of Assembly Bill 888, which would ban the sale of products containing plastic microbeads after 2020. rbenton@sacbee.com

One day after rejecting a ban on the plastic microbeads used in exfoliating creams and scrubs, the California Senate on Friday approved a scaled-back version of the bill.

Advocates for Assembly Bill 888 agreed to remove language that required the use of natural products as exfoliants in any alternative developed by the cosmetics industry. Also gone is a provision creating state oversight to review the alternatives. The measure would still ban the sale of products containing plastic microbeads after 2020.

AB 888 passed 24-14, garnering support from most of the Democrats and one Republican who abstained or opposed the measure the previous day.

The changes were made to accommodate concerns from senators that the bill would stifle industry innovation in coming up with suitable replacements for the microbeads, plastic particles small enough to pass through water filtration systems that have gained attention as a significant source of pollution as they have appeared in the bodies of fish and other wildlife. AB 888 was heavily opposed by manufacturers and cosmetics companies such as Johnson & Johnson and Proctor & Gamble.

But during a chaotic floor debate, Republicans continued to raise objections to the proposal, frustrating Sen. Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, who was jockeying the bill for Assemblyman Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica.

“I’m just hoping that we don’t play a game here of moving the target where you set a goal and we achieve your goal, and then you move what the goal is,” Hueso said. “I think the bill in essence has done exactly what you requested yesterday.”

Acknowledging that they had not yet had a chance to review the amendments, the Republican senators took a half-hour, closed-door caucus. Upon their return, most remained opposed over the lack of an exception for biodegradable plastic, which supporters of the bill said does not deteriorate in water.

“Obviously, when it’s not our bill, we think that a one-word change is very, very simple. But sometimes it isn’t,” Senate Republican Leader Jean Fuller said. “Unfortunately, we had hoped that the one word could be improved, and we understand why it can’t.”

Only Sen. Jeff Stone, R-Temecula, joined Democrats in support. Sen. Richard Roth, D-Riverside, also voted against the measure, while Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, once again abstained.

AB 888 heads back to the Assembly next for a concurrence vote.

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff

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