In a cynical election year for ballot propositions and many candidates, Props 67 and 65 in combination bag the prize for most despicable attempts to mislead voters and defeat the expressed will of the people.
To understand why, note that many local jurisdictions in California have passed ordinances to encourage reusable bags from grocery and similar retailers, citing concerns for litter, wildlife and the scourge of these discards in the great, revolving Pacific Ocean junkyard. Plastic bags consistently rank in the Top 5 in beach clean-up volume, and they festoon any wire fence they encounter. Claims that they biodegrade are spurious -- especially in fair California’s arid climate, but they persist in the water, as well.
Partly in response to retailer entreaties for statewide consistency, the legislature in 2014 passed a straightforward ban on such discardables, as defined. Enter the American(!) Progressive(!!) Bag Alliance (emphases mine), which managed to delay implementation pending a statewide vote in the 2016 election cycle. The A!P!!BA consists exclusively of out-of-state discardable plastic bag makers, including top-5 donors Hilex Poly, Superbag, Formosa Plastics, Advanced Polybag and Durabag. Together they have committed over $6M to their cause(s), while the other side has raised about half that amount.
Thus Prop 67 appears on the ballot. It seeks the voting public’s approval of what the public’s elected representatives passed in 2014, as follows (per ballotpedia.com):
“The measure would prohibit large grocery stores and pharmacies from providing plastic single-use carryout bags, and ban small grocery stores, convenience stores and liquor stores from doing so the following year.
“It would allow single-use plastic bags for meat, bread, produce, bulk food and perishable items. Stores would be required to charge 10 cents for recycled, compostable and reusable grocery bags. Revenue from the charge would be spent on covering the costs of non-plastic bags and nudging consumers toward re-useables.
“Proposition 67 would exempt consumers using a payment card or voucher issued by the California Special Supplemental Food Program from being charged for bags. The measure would provide $2 million to state plastic bag manufacturers for the purpose of helping them retain jobs and transition to making thicker, multi-use, recycled plastic bags.”
So, a YES vote on Prop 67 finally enacts the will of the legislature from two years ago; polls at that time showed its concept to be favored by Californians, 59-41%. Note that the grocers get to keep all those dime-bag dimes. They claim that they’ll barely break-even, all things considered; that seems like flexible math, but any effect is unlikely to kite Safeway’s stock price at your expense.
But wait, Ms. and Mr. Riding Hood, ‘cuz there’s more. The toothy Grammas at the A!P!!BA have also favored us with Prop 65. It purports to direct the State to collect those alt-bag revenues, place them in a new Environmental Protection! And Enhancement!! Fund, and devote them to a series of worthy-sounding environmental purposes. Grocers would therefore eat cost of providing those mostly paper alt-sacks (which seems a rather vindictive move on the part of their suppliers, who will presumably continue to purvey all those one-timers Not covered by the law, as above).
So, why would the same companies sponsor two such similar Props on the same subject? Here’s why:
1 – confusion to the enemy. The bagmen hope that the electorate will become confused and default to “no” on both referenda. If that happens, no bag ban now, and maybe the public will move on to other things, and
2 – they want to hang a dark “special interests” label on Prop 67 (grocers are pretty special, after all). Devious and dirty deeds may be afoot, ye credulous voters! (indeed they are) and
3 – they want to claim that the environment will not benefit from a Prop 67 ban, since the bread merchants get to keep their dough, and
4 – Now, stay with me here – because under Prop 65 the state would collect and allocate the new fee, the A!P!!BA can try to get away with calling both the Prop 65 and Prop 67 alt-bag fees “taxes,” even though the state collects nothing under Prop 67. Clever way to try to tar 67 with the “new tax” brush, even if that happens to be nonsense.
5 – Most insidiously, the Legislative Analyst noted that if both Props pass, but 65 gets more votes, then the bag ban in 67 will Not go into effect! 65 only applies in the event of a ban, but it does not call for one by its own terms. Mighty big teeth, Gramma!
Finally, notice that No newspaper has endorsed Prop 65. Not one. Indeed, Ballotpedia put out a plea to ask anyone, anywhere to let them know of any publication that can’t see through this fog machine. Neither has any reputable environmental group signed-on to support it – the very ones who’d presumably benefit from allocations of bag fees under 65.
So, by all means, don’t be fooled. For my money and our state, this issue is just one more way to circle the one-way disposables arrow. The bag ban is better than recycling, it’s re-use. And pet poop bags may still be had for free in the produce aisle.
So that’s a big Yes on 67, and a resounding No! on 65. If you need a mnemonic, no comes before yes, as does 65 before 67.