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Plastic Bag Ban Defeated in Senate  

By Lookout Staff

September 1, 2010 -- The State Senate rejected AB 1998, the proposed ban on single-use plastic bags, Tuesday night during the closing hours of the legislative session. The final vote was 21-14. The Santa Monica City Council will consider a local ban next month.

AB 1998 was authored by Santa Monica Assemblymember Julia Brownley. The bill won Assembly approval in June, but had struggled to gain enough Senate support as it faced a significant opposition campaign from the plastics industry, headed by the American Chemistry Council (ACC). In addition to lobbying senators directly, the ACC put out electronic and print media advertisements in the Sacramento market.

In a statement released shortly after the defeat, Brownley called this “a sad day for California.”

“Communities across the state were waiting for the state to adopt a uniform, statewide ban on single-use bags before they adopt their own ordinances,” she said. “The State failed them. But, this is an environmental movement that won’t be stopped, even by big-money interests like the American Chemistry Council. It’s not a matter of if, but a matter of when consumers bring their own bags and become good stewards of the environment.”

Santa Monica officials announced last week that they would pursue a local ban if AB 1998 failed to pass. (See: Santa Monica to Move Ahead with Bag Ban, August 27, 2010.) A vote on the proposed Santa Monica ordinance, which includes only slight differences from AB 1998, is scheduled for Oct. 12.

Officials from several other jurisdictions, including the County of Los Angeles and the City of Los Angeles, have also said they will pursue local ordinances prohibiting single-use plastic bags.

The ACC issued a statement in favor of the Senate decision early Wednesday morning, according to the Sacramento Bee.

"We congratulate Senate members for discarding a costly bill that provides no real solutions to California's litter problem and would have further jeopardized California's already strained economy," Tim Shestek, the ACC's senior director of state affairs, said, according to the Bee.

With support for the bill lacking, Brownley amended AB 1998 on Friday to respond to the measure’s critics. This included the elimination of features that called for removal of plastic bag recycling bins from stores and allowed retailers to charge a nickel for recycled paper bags. Also, stores would be required to provide low-income people with free reusable or recycled paper bags and $2 million was designated to a program for California companies to obtain loans and grants to upgrade their systems to make strong, reusable plastic bags.

AB 1998 went before the Senate floor in the mid-afternoon on Tuesday, but opponents were able to force it back to a committee. After receiving a 7-3 approval by the Senate Appropriations Committee in the evening, the bill returned to the Senate floor around 9 p.m.

Following the rejection, an unsuccessful attempt was made to persuade some of the senators to change their votes.


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