California's voters, not legislators, will be the ones to ultimately decide on the state's plastic bag ban.
The referendum to repeal a statewide plastic-bag ban qualifies for the November 2016 ballot, the California secretary of state's office announced Feb. 24.
The ban was passed last year by state legislators and scheduled to go into effect July 1, but the more than 800,000 signatures submitted to California Secretary of State Alex Padilla by the American Progressive Bag Alliance (APBA) will delay its implementation until next year's vote.
Under the law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in September, single-use plastic bags were to be prohibited as of July 1, 2015. Californians were set to pay a minimum of 10 cents for each reusable plastic or recycled paper bag at grocery stores and in 2016, the ban would have extended to pharmacies and liquor stores. The bill (SB 270) was written by Padilla, at the time a second-term state senator.
Opponents, lead by APBA and a coalition of more than 20 California business and taxpayer groups, say the bag ban would eliminate thousands of jobs in the state and effectively tax shoppers without their say-so and put the money into grocer's pockets instead of using it for environmental purposes.
“SB 270 was never a bill about the environment. It was a backroom deal between the California Grocers Association and their union friends to scam consumers out of billions of dollars in bag fees — all under the guise of environmentalism,” said Lee Califf, APBA Executive Director, in a news release.
Ban supporters, however, said they are confident voters will uphold the ban by voting “yes” on the referendum in 2016.
“It's not surprising that after spending more than $3.2 million, 98 percent of which is from out of state, the plastic bag industry has bought its way onto the California ballot to protect its profits,” said environmentalist Mark Murray, a long-time ban supporter and leader of Californians vs. Big Plastic, a coalition of local officials and environmental, labor, and business groups. “Every poll shows that Californians strongly support the law, and the $30 million to $50 million it will cost the plastics industry to launch a full-fledged campaign in 2016 will be proven to be an act of political malpractice, particularly since nearly half the state will no longer have plastic bags by election day.”
Nearly 140 counties and municipalities in California have enacted single-use bag bans or fees of their own. California was the first to pass a state-wide bag ban, though county-by-county measures in Hawaii have effectively created a state-wide ban there.