Not only will California voters have their say on banning plastics bags this November, they also will weigh in on where fees from paper and reusable bags should go.
California Secretary of State Alex Padilla announced June 30 that an initiative, backed by the plastic bag industry, has qualified for the Nov. 8 statewide ballot. After gathering more than 800,000 signatures to get the up-or-down bag ban referendum on the ballot, the American Progressive Bag Alliance submitted nearly 600,000 signatures backing an initiative that would require stores to deposit bag sale proceeds into a special fund administered by the state's Wildlife Conservation Board.
Should the plastic bag referendum fail and SB 270 become law, proponents of the initiative say the Environmental Fee Protection Act would redirect bag fees to an environmental fund. It also gives municipal governments the option to amend existing local ordinances to direct bag fees to the environmental fund, rather than to grocers.
“This measure gives voters the opportunity to make sure that any state-mandated fee will go to environmental causes, which is what voters thought they were getting in the first place with SB 270,” said Lee Califf, executive director of the APBA, in a statement. “Our goal is to make sure voters are well-informed about how these fees impact California jobs and their wallets. Californians should know exactly where their tax dollars are going and be able to make their voices heard at the ballot box in November 2016.
“With polling showing 84 percent of California voters in support of bag fees going to a public purpose instead of increasing profit margins for grocers, we have no doubt California voters will see the benefits of voting yes,” he said.
Environmental groups, including the bag ban's biggest supporter, Californians Against Waste, oppose the initiative, saying APBA wants to confuse voters, not help the environment by redirecting funds.
“This measure will have no meaningful environmental benefit, said Mark Murray, CAW executive director. “This measure has been placed on the ballot by four out-of-state plastic bag manufacturers as a last ditch effort to confuse and mislead California voters.
“Hilex Poly, Formosa Plastics and the Texas bag makers behind this scheme don't care about California's environment. They only care about protecting their polluting plastic bag sales.”
Estimates range from $700,000 to more than $1 billion in expected revenue to be generated from the 10-cent minimum fee retailers would be required to charge under the new law, should voters approve the statewide 10-cent-per-bag minimum fee in November. Califf and APBA members say the fee will easily generate $400 million per year for grocers.