Proposal to make paper bag fee optional fails

Another proposal before the Huntington Beach City Council to amend the city's plastic bag ordinance has failed.

Council members Tuesday voted 4 to 3 against an amendment proposed by Councilman Joe Carchio that would have given grocery and liquor stores the choice to charge customers a controversial 10-cent fee for paper bags in place of banned plastic bags. Currently the fee is mandatory.

Mayor Pro Tem Joe Shaw and council members Connie Boardman, Jim Katapodis and Jill Hardy voted against the proposal. Carchio, Councilman Dave Sullivan and Mayor Matthew Harper voted in favor.

At the council's Aug. 18 meeting, another Carchio proposal that would have set the fee at a maximum of 5 cents also failed. Earlier this year, a proposal to have local voters choose the fate of the plastic bag ban did not garner enough votes.

Earlier Tuesday night, Harper suggested repealing the fee section of the ordinance altogether, but he made no motion.

"You need to let the market determine what is the most important thing, and the market will determine that," said Carchio, who has persistently tried to lower or eliminate the fee. "By having an ordinance where the 10 cents is optional, it's not taking away anything from the plastic bag ordinance."

He added that the paper bag fee will be a major talking point during the upcoming council election. Carchio will be termed out this year.

Though Carchio told Boardman that this is the last time he would bring up the plastic bag ordinance, the topic is far from being forgotten.

Last week the state Legislature pushed through Senate Bill 270, which would mandate a ban on plastic bags and a fee on paper bags statewide should Gov. Jerry Brown sign it by the end of this month, which is the end of the state's fiscal year.

If the governor signs the bill, cities would have to abide by the state law. However, Huntington Beach and other cities that have already passed their own ban could enforce the local rules, City Atty. Jennifer McGrath said.

The bill also would allow those agencies to amend their ordinances before Jan. 1, meaning Huntington Beach could reduce or remove its fee before the new year.

If Brown vetoes the bill, the city could change its ordinance as it pleases at any time.

"We're heard far fewer arguments on the issue of paper bags than we've heard on plastic bags," said Harper, who questioned why the fee was imposed. "No one was arguing about a paper bag gyre in the Pacific Ocean. No one's complaining about the paper bag litter at the beach or on PCH."

Unlike previous discussions regarding the ordinance, in which dozens of people on both sides talked at length, Tuesday's conversation was short.

Boardman said she was disappointed that the council was revisiting the issue yet again.

"I don't know why we're not waiting until the governor makes up his mind before we even discuss this," she said.

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