Referendum sought on plastic bag ban

Plastic bags and other debris at a landfill await the bulldozer. (Photo: Huguette Roe)

The ink was barely dry on the governor’s signature to ban plastic bags when foes of his decision filed paperwork with the state attorney general’s office for a referendum in 2016 to overturn the new law.

The request for an official title and summary from the attorney general was submitted Tuesday. The action is the first step required to get an initiative on the ballot, followed by clearance from the secretary of state to gather signatures.

The backer of the referendum was listed as Doyle L. Johnson, who said inquiries about the proposal could be directed to the Nielsen Merksamer law firm.

“Our research confirms that the vast majority of California voters are opposed to legislation that bans recyclable plastic bags and allows grocers to charge and keep fees on other bags,” Lee Califf,  executive director of the American Plastic Bag Alliance,  said in a statement. “So we have taken the necessary steps to gather signatures and qualify a referendum to repeal SB 270 on the November 2016 ballot.”

On Tuesday,  Gov. Brown, following through on a statement he made during the gubernatorial debate earlier this month, signed legislation making California the first state in the nation to ban single-use plastic grocery bags.

Brown, who rarely tips his hand about what he’ll do with legislation, said that he would sign SB 270 by Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles. Some 120 communities in California already enacted similar bag bans, and that “is causing a lot of confusion,” Brown declared.

“This bill is a step in the right direction – it reduces the torrent of plastic polluting our beaches, parks and even the vast ocean itself,” Gov. Brown wrote in a signing statement. “We’re the first to ban these bags, and we won’t be the last.”

On July 1, 2015, grocery stores or retailers in California that meet specific criteria, like having gross annual sales of $2 million or has at least 10,000 square feet of retail space, will be prohibited from providing customers with the contested bags. The same rules will be applied to convenience and liquor stores the next year.

Consumers who aren’t equipped with a reusable bag will have to pay at least 10 cents for a paper bag.

The state is also providing $2 million in loans to businesses that manufactured single-use bags to help them transition into the reusable grocery bag market.

Immediately after Brown’s announcement, the American Plastic Bag Alliance said it  planned to challenge the law. The group filed the paperwork with the state later in the day.

Ed’s Note: UPDATES earlier with referendum filing and RECASTS throughout.


Want to see more stories like this? Sign up for The Roundup, the free daily newsletter about California politics from the editors of Capitol Weekly. Stay up to date on the news you need to know.

Sign up below, then look for a confirmation email in your inbox.


Support for Capitol Weekly is Provided by: