Single-use plastic bags were banned across the state in 2014, introduced as AB 2449/SB 270, which passed both the State Senate and Assembly and in turn was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown. In California, however, any state-approved measure can be put on the ballot for approval by the voters, and that is what happened. A petition for a referendum was signed by enough registered voters, and so the law was put on hold pending this November’s results.
That is the current state of Proposition 67 — the original AB 2449, signed into law, held in stasis. Proposition 65 on the other hand is an initiative that reads well enough on the surface, as it “requires stores to deposit bag sale proceeds into a special fund administered by the Wildlife Conservation Board to support specified categories of environmental projects.”
Nowhere in the proposition does it require a per bag fee, however, and nowhere does it require the disuse of single-use plastic bags. For Proposition 65 to have any teeth, a bag ban must be established — and should it pass and Prop 67 fail, no bag ban will be in place and 65 will sit like a rotting flower on the California books.
In a useful grid viewable in the 223-page official voter information guide, it is said that if only Prop 65 should pass, “there could still be a fiscal impact if a state carryout bag law was enacted in the future.”
But the fiscal impact would be felt immediately, as the prop would require a loan in the amount of $500,000 from the Safe Drinking Water, Water Quality and Supply, Flood Control, and Coastal Protection Fund of 2006 to fund the Wildlife Conservation Board’s effort for “adopting regulations for the administration and implementation” of Prop 65’s empty requirements — to be paid back by nonexistent funds.
Bill Hickman, vice chair of the Ventura County chapter of Surfrider Foundation, says that Proposition 65 is funded by the plastic bag industry and that he’ll be voting no on it, and yes on Prop 67.
“The title of it seems innocuous and something to support, but if you read the full text of the proposition it may contain a poison pill that would try to supersede prop 67 if it (65) got more votes,” said Hickman.
Out-of-state bag manufacturers, members of the American Progressive Bag Alliance, spent $5 million to collect signatures for the referendum according to a report in the Los Angeles Times; and the Republican-headed California Taxpayer Protection Committee and California Senior Advocates League have spearheaded the opposition, claiming that Prop 67 is a “sweetheart” deal for supermarkets, who get to keep the 10 cent fee charged for paper bags.
But confusion surrounding the two propositions is hard to remedy. Hickman says that most of his energy has been spent on advocating the benefits of Prop 67 rather than being negative on Prop 65, adding that with so many propositions on the ballot — 17 in total, including the two dealing with single-use bags — it’s easy for the issue to get lost in the fray.
“It’s a really busy ballot this year, that’s one of the things we’re dealing with,” said Hickman. “We’re trying to reach out beyond our usual supporters and get people who may not be totally aware that this is even on the ballot to get out and vote on 67.”