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Plastic bag ban falls short in California Assembly

Proposal to ban single-use plastic bags falls three votes short in Assembly

A proposed statewide ban on single-use plastic bags stalled in the Assembly on Monday after failing to overcome opposition from Republicans and a bloc of moderate Democrats.

The plastic bag ban has been one of the most hotly contested items on the agenda during the Legislature's final weeks. Environmentalists and grocers have supported the proposal, while plastic and paper bag manufactures are staunchly opposed.

More than 100 local governments -- including the city and county of Los Angeles -- already ban single-use plastic bags. Supporters said that the measure by Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) would expand that patchwork of regulation to a statewide rule.

"It's time to bring the rest of the state up to speed with this environmentally and economically sound legislation," said Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Alameda).

Before Monday's vote, the measure suffered a major setback when the union representing store workers announced its opposition.

The action by the United Food and Commercial Workers Western States Council sent Padilla scrambling to put together enough votes in the Assembly to pass his legislation.

“We have serious concerns about the final language in SB 270,” wrote council Executive Director Jim Araby. “There’s no enforcement mechanism to ensure the 10-cent fee stays at the local store and helps the local community.”

To get the union to reconsider, Araby said Padilla would have to remove a key provision of the bill: requiring stores to charge customers at least 10 cents for a paper or reusable plastic bag.

“We will only reconsider our support if the 10-cent fee charge is eliminated,” he wrote.

The bill was amended last week so it would require the fees collected by those stores be used to acquire paper or reusable bags, or other costs of implementation.

Nevertheless, the minimum fee was blasted Monday by lawmakers who opposed the bill. 

Assemblyman Scott Wilk (R-Santa Clarita) said the fees amounted to "another funding source for the grocery store industry."

He argued that by passing the cost on to the consumer, the measure was "a backdoor tax to hurt those that need our help the most."

The proposal got 38 "aye" votes, entirely from Democrats -- three short of the 41-vote majority it needed. It got 33 "no" votes from Republicans and moderate Democrats, including a number of vulnerable freshmen.

The bill, SB 270, may reappear before the Legislature breaks for the year. It's eligible to be brought up once more on reconsideration.

Follow @melmason for more on California government and politics.

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
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