On Friday, the California Senate voted 22-15 in favor of the nation’s first statewide ban on single-use plastic bags. The bill now passes to Governor Jerry Brown, who has until September 30 to sign it into law.
If passed, the ban would prohibit single-use plastic bags in grocery stores and pharmacies starting July 2015. Convenience stores and liquor stores would also be banned from providing plastic bags starting July 2016.
This is the second attempt by Senator Alex Padilla (D-LA) to pass a statewide plastic bag ban. A similar bill failed to make it through the legislature last year due to strong opposition from plastic bag manufacturers. A measure was added to this year’s bill that provides $2 million in loans to manufacturers to help them transition into producing reusable bags. That and the support of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union helped to carry the bill through California’s State Assembly and Senate.
Californians Against Waste reports that over 10 billion plastic bags are used in California each year, many of which end up in California’s waterways and require millions in cleanup costs. “Single-use plastic bags not only litter our beaches, but also our mountains, our deserts, and our rivers, streams and lakes,” said Senator Padilla.
An estimated 100 jurisdictions in California (as well as a handful of counties in the U.S.) have already enacted similar bans on plastic bags, but SB270 is the first ban to make it all the way through the state legislature. Though Governor Brown has been a longtime environmental advocate, he has yet to make a public statement on whether he will sign the bill. Traditionally, Brown’s administration does not comment on pending legislation.
Neel Kashkari, Brown’s Republican opponent in the upcoming gubernatorial race, has made his opinion very clear on the matter. In an August 28 Twitter post, the former U.S. Treasury Department official wrote “Poverty? Jobs? Education? Rebuilding the middle class? Nope. Plastic bags. #embarrassing”
Political commentators wonder if Brown, a moderate Democrat, is willing to sign such a controversial bill in an election year. However, Padilla has stated that he “worked extensively” with the Brown administration on the content of SB270.