The California Labor Federation supports this measure.
A YES vote on this measure means:
Voters would uphold or ratify the contested legislation, SB 270, banning plastic bags that was enacted by the California State Legislature and signed by the Governor.
A NO vote on this measure means:
Voters would overturn SB 270 and the current ban on plastic bags.
- Ratify Senate Bill 270 (2014).
- Prohibit large grocery stores and pharmacies from providing plastic single-use carryout bags and ban small grocery stores, convenience stores and liquor stores from doing so the following year.
- Allow single-use plastic bags for meat, bread, produce, bulk food and perishable items.
- Mandate stores to charge 10 cents for recycled, compostable and reusable grocery bags.
- Exempt consumers using a payment card or voucher issued by the California Special Supplemental Food Program from being charged for bags.
- Provide $2 million to state plastic bag manufacturers for the purpose of helping them retain jobs and transition to making thicker, multi-use, recycled plastic bags.
California uses an estimated 14 billion single-use plastic bags a year. According to CalRecycle, less than 5% of single-use plastic bags are recycled. Every year California taxpayers spend $25 million disposing of plastic bags used in the state. Although plastic represents a relatively small fraction of the overall waste stream in California, plastic waste is the predominate form of marine debris. Plastics are estimated to comprise 60% to 80% of all marine debris and 90% of all floating debris.
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.
In 2014, the Legislature approved and the Governor signed into law SB 270 (Padilla) that essentially banned the use of single-use plastic bags in certain instances. The bill implemented the following:
- Prohibits large grocery stores and pharmacies from providing plastic single-use carryout bags and ban small grocery stores, convenience stores and liquor stores from doing so the following year.
- Allows single-use plastic bags for prescription drug purchases, a non-handled bag used to protect an item from damaging or contaminating other items, and a dry-cleaning or garment bag.
- Exempts consumers using a payment card or voucher issued by the California Special Supplemental Food Program from being charged for bags.
- Authorizes stores to sell reusable grocery bag or recycled paper bag for not less than 10 cents.
- Requires that all monies collected by stores pursuant to this bill be retained at the store.
- Appropriates $2 million from the Recycled Market Development Revolving Loan Subaccount for loans for the creation and retention of jobs and economic activity in the state for the manufacture and recycling of plastic reusable grocery bags that use recycled content and requires retention and retraining of existing employees.
This referendum will place on the statewide ballot a challenge to the state law (SB 270, 2014) described above. Voters will decide to ratify or nullify SB 270. The law may not go into effect or be implemented until the referendum on the ballot is decided by voters in November 2016. One section of SB 270 is not subject to the referendum and will go into effect even if the challenge to the law succeeds—subdivision (a) of Section 42288 of the Public Resources Code. This section appropriates $2 million to provide loans for the creation and retention of jobs and economic activity in California for the manufacture and recycling of plastic reusable grocery bags.
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 plastic bag ban include Governor Brown, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), many environmental organizations and local governments. They argue that the campaign fighting the ban is funded by out-of-state plastic companies who aren’t invested in protecting California’s environment. They say the ban will help protect the environment without hurting low-income consumers or decreasing job creation. They point to single-use plastic bags as a source of litter and as doing damage to the environment, especially on the coast. They argue that the ban will also save taxpayers millions from the disposal of plastic bags.
Opponents of the ban include the American Progressive Bag Alliance, the California Manufacturers’ and Technology Association, Forest Products Industry National Labor Management Committee, among others. They argue that plastic bags are a miniscule source of litter and waste streams and that banning them will have no real effect on the amount of waste we produce or litter in our waterways and streets. They also argue that this bill will hurt workers by jeopardizing thousands of good manufacturing jobs. The opponents have also argued that SB 270 was a “backroom deal…to fleece consumers for billions” to benefit grocery stores and unions.
The Labor Federation supported SB 270 that banned plastic bags in 2014.