“Time is running out for our planet,” exclaimed Assemblymember Mariko Yamada (D-Davis) in the midst of a lengthy debate in the State Assembly over the proposed statewide ban on plastic grocery store bags, Senate Bill 270. The controversial legislation, authored by State Senator Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima), has been one of the highest profile bills churning through the California legislature this year.
After all of the speechifying was concluded, and a vote was taken, the legislation failed on a vote of 38 to 33. A majority of 41 votes had been needed to pass the bill. All of the votes in support of the bill were from Democrats. The votes against the bill were from the lower chamber’s Republicans and some apparently more moderate Democrats. A significant number of Democrats were present in the chamber, but declined to vote either way.
Fallacy of the Legislation
Much has been written about this flawed legislation, including a study from the Reason Foundation that exposed how it actually would not be the environmental panacea claimed by left-wing ideologues.
Leaders from poorer communities also denounced the regressive nature of banning plastic bags and charging for paper bags, and how the bill would kill California jobs while generating hundreds of millions in profits from grocers, who would pocket the money generated by the mandated paper bag fee of at least ten cents.
Union Drops Support
In the final hours before SB came up for a vote on the Assembly floor, a key labor organization dropped its support of the bill–namely, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, made up of grocery store workers. In doing so, they cited their concerns that the proceeds from the bill’s mandated minimum ten-cent fee on paper bags wouldn’t go to any public use but rather to to the bottom line of grocers.
In the event that somehow Padilla does bring the bill back up before the end of session, and manages to get it passed onto the Governor’s desk, and gets a signature, that may simply begin a whole new statewide discussion of the ban.
My sources tell me that the plastic bag manufacturing industry folks are poised, if necessary, to go out and gather the signatures necessary for a referendum, which would then place the issue before California voters in November of 2016. It would also actually suspend the ban until the voters have a chance to speak out.
I suspect that just delaying the implementation of the ban would save these bag manufacturers more than it would actually cost them to finance the necessary signature gathering.
The Final Days
Under the rules of the Assembly, Padilla has been granted the ability to have SB 270 reconsidered and brought forward for a re-vote–but that would need to happen before the end of the week, when the legislative session concludes.
And so Californians who live in those parts of the state without local government nanny state laws taking away their freedom to choose plastic grocery bags must now anxiously wait a few more days, with the hopes that Padilla’s legislation fails to garner the necessary votes.
Of course one group of people is hoping and praying he is successful: the owners of California’s big grocery store chains, who have billions of newfound profits in need of just a few more votes to become a reality.