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Proposition 65: Carry-Out Bags. Charges. Initiative Statute.

The California Labor Federation does not take a stance on this measure.

Click here to download California Labor’s 2016 Endorsements & Ballot Measures Analyses

A YES vote on this measure means:

Voters would redirect money collected from the sale of carry-out bags by grocery or other retail stores to a special fund administered by the Wildlife Conservation Board. Revenue would be used for specific categories of environmental projects. If this measure received more votes than the referendum to repeal the plastic bag ban, then this measure would prevail.

A NO vote on this measure means:

Money collected from the sale of carry-out bags by grocery or other retail stores would not be redirected from the purposes specified in current law.

Ballot Summary:

  • Redirects money collected by grocery and certain other retail stores through sale of carry-out bags, whenever any state law bans free distribution of a particular kind of carry-out bag and mandates the sale of any other kind of carry-out bag.
  • Requires stores to deposit bag sale proceeds into a special fund administered by the Wildlife Conservation Board to support specified categories of environmental projects.
  • Provides for Board to develop regulations implementing law.


In 2007, San Francisco became the first jurisdiction in California to ban single-use plastic bags. As of November 2015, 115 local jurisdictions adopted similar ordinances, covering roughly a third of California’s population. There have been initiative attempts to overturn local single-use plastic bag bans in several California cities but all failed to collect enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. However, Huntington Beach’s City Council voted to repeal that city’s plastic bag ban in 2015.

By 2014, grocers were frustrated with patchwork of local bag bans across the state. The grocers joined with environmentalists and unions to support legislation in 2014—SB 270—that created a statewide, uniform bag ban. The legislation allowed grocers to sell reusable or recycled grocery bags to customers and charge a minimum of 10 cents per bag. Stores were allowed to keep the reusable bag charge.

This measure would redirect the funds collected by stores for the sale of reusable plastic bags from grocers to a fund administered by the Wildlife Conservation Board. Monies in the fund would be used for drought mitigation, recycling, drinking water, litter removal and other projects. The money collected by stores would only be redirected if a statewide ban on plastic bags were in effect. The measure also specifies if there is a legal challenge to this measure, if passed, and the Governor and the Attorney General refuse to defend it, that a continuous appropriation be made from the General Fund to pay for independent counsel to defend the measure. The initiative includes a conflicting measures section that if this measure receives a larger number of votes than the bag ban referendum, then this measure will take effect and the other measure will not.

Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance estimate of fiscal impact: 

If voters uphold the state’s current carryout bag law, redirected revenues from retailers to the state, potentially in the several tens of millions of dollars annually. Revenues would be used for grants for certain environmental and natural resources purposes. If voters reject the state’s current carryout bag law, likely minor fiscal effects.

Support and Opposition:

Supporters of the measure include the American Progressive Bag Alliance (APBA), a national coalition of plastic bag manufacturers based in Washington, D.C. They argue that SB 270 was a flawed, job-killing bill designed to funnel hundreds of millions of dollars in bag fees to grocers. In response, supporters say they qualified a referendum for the 2016 ballot so California voters have the opportunity to repeal the bag ban imposed by SB 270. However, the supporters say that should voters approve SB 270 and reject the referendum, this initiative provides voters a choice to decide where the bag fees mandated under the law go – either to increase grocers’ profits or to help fund worthy environmental causes.

While there is no official opposition to this measure, supporters of the statewide bag ban argue that this is a cynical ploy by national plastic bag manufacturers to confuse voters. They argue that plastic bag makers, represented by the American Progressive Bag Alliance, spent $3.1 million in an attempt to defeat SB 270 and lost. Now they have a referendum to repeal SB 270 on the ballot, and this measure is there to both confuse voters and hedge their bets, should the referendum fail. They argue that this measure has nothing to do with environmental clean-up, but is just a play by out-of-state bag makers to push their referendum and to exact revenge from grocers, who supported the state bag ban in 2014.

Prior Positions:

The Labor Federation supported SB 270 that banned plastic bags in 2014.

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