State Bill (SB) 270, introduced by State Senator Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) in January to ban disposable plastic check-out bags from grocery stores, may come to a vote by midnight Aug. 31, according to the Los Angeles Times. Padilla, who is also the Democratic Party’s nominee for Secretary of State, had said that the millions of bags used every year “cost state and local governments at least $25 million,” amended his original version to curry favor with the grocery industry.
The California Grocers Association had opposed the idea, but when Padilla changed the bill to permit them to keep all the fees drawn from the sale of thicker plastic and paper bags as an alternative to the original plastic bags, they jumped on the bandwagon.
Senate President Pro Tem-elect Kevin de León and other Los Angeles Legislators climbed aboard when $2 million in competitive loans was offered by an unspecified source to change plastic bag plants in Los Angeles to plants making reusable plastic bags.
Plastic bag makers are still against the bill. One ad called the bill describing the bill “Padilla’s dirty deal,” asserting that grocers have donated millions of dollars to state legislators’ campaigns and the bill is Padilla’s way of paying them back.
Steve Schmidt, from the Edelman public relations firm, which is representing the American Progressive Bag Alliance, told the Sacramento Bee, “What’s most cynical about this legislation is the massive transfer of wealth from taxpayers to shareholders of the grocery industry association.” The industry association has spent over $640,000 to fight the bill since 2012, the Bee notes.
Padilla had tried to pass a bill banning plastic bags in 2013, but Democratic colleagues would not support it, arguing that industrial jobs in blue-collar parts of California would be lost. Padilla won them over in the new version of the bill by creating the grant program for factories to revamp their products and re-train workers.
Ironically, the self-proclaimed importance of SB 270 as an environmental bill flies in the face of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s assertion that plastic bags are responsible for less than one half of one percent of the U.S. municipal solid waste stream, and data collected from litter studies show that they comprise less than 1 percent of all litter collected.
Padilla faces Republican nominee Pete Peterson for Secretary of State in November.