Prop 67 - Protect California's Plastic Bag Ban



Note: Because Propositions 65 and 67 both deal with the statewide plastic bag ban established by a law passed in 2014, and much of the information about them is related, we are presenting them together here.

For background information on this measure, refer to the Legislative Analyst’s Office analysis included in the Official Voter Information Guide and the LWVCEF material available on Voter’s Edge California state election page.

League Analysis: 

We urge a YES vote on Proposition 67 to retain California’s plastic bag ban. The question on a referendum is not intuitive; voters are being asked if they want to retain the new law. A YES vote will keep the 2014 statewide law prohibiting single-use carryout bags (SB 270).

Plastic film bags pollute our oceans, pose a deadly threat to marine wildlife, clutter our landscapes, create toxic byproducts when manufactured, and are very difficult to recycle. California grocers and other retailers support the ban, and many cities and counties have local measures that are working. The primary opposition is from out-of-state plastic bag manufacturers.

In 2014, the Legislature passed and the Governor signed a statewide single-use carry-out bag law (SB 270, Padilla, Chapter 850, Statutes of 2014). Similar to many of the local ordinances, SB 270 prohibits most grocery, convenience, and liquor stores from providing single-use plastic bags. It also generally requires retailers to charge at least 10 cents for any paper or reusable bag that it provides to consumers at checkout and creates standards for reusable bags (such as size and durability requirements). The law allows the retailers to retain the revenue from the sale of these bags. This law does not replace existing local ordinances, and therefore only applies to cities and counties that do not already have their own single-use carryout bag ordinances.

A referendum regarding SB 270 qualified for the November 2016 ballot; this means that the law will be voted on for approval or rejection by the voters. If the referendum passes, the law will be upheld. If it does not pass, the law will be rejected. Until the outcome of the election, the state cannot implement SB 270.

Political Background: Initial attempts in the late 2000s to pass legislation for a statewide plastic bag ban were not successful. The proposed legislation was opposed by grocers and other retailers and by the American Progressive Bag Alliance (APBA), comprised of four large players in the plastic bag industry—all from out of state—who together provide 99 percent of the funding to APBA. Although state attempts failed, some California cities and counties followed with their own plastic bag bans. One was the Los Angeles County ordinance, passed in 2009, which added the requirement of a 10 cent charge for reusable bags. SB 270 was proposed in 2013, modeled on the LA County ordinance. This time the grocers and retailers were in favor, largely because the “patchwork quilt” effect of local bans was difficult to administer. APBA continued to oppose. After passage of SB 270, APBA raised over $3 million to gather signatures to put the referendum on the 2016 ballot and is campaigning hard to oppose the referendum.

PROPOSITION 65 is an initiative measure that was put on the ballot by the four major manufacturers of plastic bags – all from out of state. It is deceptive. It tries to appear environmentally friendly while in fact serving to distract voters from Proposition 67.

Proposition 65 would change where the revenue from the sale of biodegradable carry-out bags goes. It would no longer be retained by retailers, as provided by SB 270, but rather would go to a new state fund to be administered by the state Wildlife Conservation Board. The fund would be used to support (1) grants for programs and projects related to drought mitigation; (2) recycling; (3) clean drinking water supplies; (4) state, regional, and local parks; (5) beach cleanup; (6) litter removal; and (7) wildlife habitat restoration.

Although at first glance Proposition 65 may sound reasonable, in fact it adds bureaucratic complexity to manage a very small amount of money for efforts already supported by other state funds. Further, the position on the ballot of Proposition 65 is before Proposition 67, and both deal with plastic bags, which can be confusing to all but the most informed voter.

Campaign Funding: As of August 30, $2.872 million had been raised by the APBA (the four out-of-state manufacturers of plastic bags from South Carolina, Texas, and New Jersey) in support of Proposition 65 and opposition to Proposition 67. That sum is in addition to $3.258 million that the APBA raised while gathering signatures to place the referendum on the ballot. Funding in support of Proposition 67 was $1.199 million—66% from California, and most of the rest coming from grocers. (There was no organized campaign funding opposition to Proposition 65.) Visit Voter's Edge California for more information on campaign funding.


Related Issues: 

Preserve the physical, chemical and biological integrity of the ecosystem, with maximum protection of public health and the environment.