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Don't get suckered into banning the plastic bag ban!

The bounty hunters are out again, and they're gunning for you over plastic bags

The bounty hunters are out again, and they’re gunning for … you.

Dec. 29 is the deadline for plastic bag manufacturers to persuade you to sign their petitions for a ballot measure to overturn a new state law banning flimsy, ugly single-use plastic bags.

The pro-baggers have already lost locally, as cities such as  Los Angeles have banned the bags. And now they’ve lost statewide, in Sacramento. The Legislature approved and, this fall, the governor signed the statewide ban, which takes effect in July.

Unless. Unless the bag makers wangle about a half-million signatures from you, the voters, in which case the ban is on hold for nearly two years, until November 2016, for Californians to vote on whether to undo what was just passed in their name.

Bag makers have already lost the PR battle. The latest USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll found that 6 in 10 Californians endorse the ban.

I don’t think manufacturers really expect voters to dump the bag ban. What they’re counting on is delay, getting enough signatures to obtain those extra nearly two years to keep churning out billions of bags, only about 5% of which ever get recycled.

A South Carolina plastic bag company owned by a Chicago equity fund is putting in a big chunk of the money for the $1.50 per signature paid to the people with the clipboards who are collecting names.

The outlay so far is nearly $3 million. What a coincidence: the city of San Jose alone pays about $3 million every year to clean all those plastic bags out of its storm drains and creeks. Statewide, we the taxpayers pony up at least $25 million a year to  gather up bags and send them off to landfills -- never mind the other environmental cleanup price tags for trying to keep them out of oceans and rivers and parks and playgrounds.

This is a standard dance step in California politics. If a special interest doesn’t like what the Legislature has done, it asks the voters to undo it, figuring voters can be talked or terrified into doing just about anything. And if the special interest doesn’t like what the voters do, it’ll make generous campaign donations to persuade the Legislature, figuring there’s enough money to get enough votes to undo the voters’ wishes.

Throwaway plastic bags are an idea whose time has gone. Really, folks, is it that hard to remember to carry recyclable bags into the market with you?

Watch out for the signature gatherers. Don’t put your John Hancock on the bag petition unless, once again, you like the idea of another maneuver to trump the public’s expressed wishes and the law that enacts them, and to see private profits (the plastic bag mess) maintained at public expense.

Follow Patt Morrison on Twitter @pattmlatimes


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