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Election 2016 FAQ: Proposition 67, Plastic Bag Ban Veto Referendum

Proposition 67.
California Counts
Proposition 67.

Proposition 67 clears a path for a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags to go into effect See a list of all our proposition explainers here.

California Counts is a collaboration of KPBS, KPCC, KQED and Capital Public Radio to report on the 2016 election. The coverage focuses on major issues and solicits diverse voices on what's important to the future of California.

The basics

If you’re thinking California already has a statewide law and a passel of local laws banning single-use plastic bags, you’re right.

In 2007, San Francisco became the first city in the nation to ban plastic carry-out bags, and about 150 cities and counties have followed suit, spanning the state from Arcata to San Diego. In 2014, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a statewide ban.

So why are we voting again?

The plastic bag industry is pushing back.

That statewide ban hasn’t taken effect because immediately after it became law, the American Progressive Bag Alliance, an industry group that lobbied against the bill, began collecting signatures to stop it with Proposition 67.

Proposition 67 doesn’t ask voters whether they want to reject the law. It asks whether they want the law to take effect.

What you're voting on

A “yes” vote means the statewide ban would become law and take effect the day after the election.

A “no” vote means the statewide ban would not take effect, and only local bans would remain in place.

Lawmakers passed the bag ban to cut down on the cost of plastic pollution and unify a patchwork of local laws. California taxpayers spend $25 million every year to dispose of 14 billion used plastic bags, according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office, and plastics make up the majority of waste polluting marine habitats off the coast.

The California Grocers Association supported the bill, saying there’s a “dizzying array” of local ordinances across the state and the industry needs consistency. The bag industry says the state law jeopardizes manufacturing jobs and enriches corporate grocers through the fees charged for reusable bags.

Under the state ban, supermarkets and large drugstores could no longer offer thin plastic carry-out bags and would be required to charge at least a dime for a paper or reusable bag. The 10-cent fee would be waived for low-income folks who pay with a state benefit card. Small grocery stores, convenience stores and liquor stores would have 18 months to comply with the law. Stores could still offer thin plastic bags for bulk goods, produce and other items.

The money collected from selling paper or reusable bags could be used only for educational campaigns and the costs of providing bags and complying with the law.

However, how the money is used also would depend on what happens with the other industry-back measure, Proposition 65. That measure wants to direct the funds in a different direction.

Fiscal impact — by the League of Women Voters of California Education Fund

Costs would be relatively small. State costs for overseeing the law would be less than a million dollars. These costs would be paid for by fees placed on companies that make plastic bags.

Supporters say — by the League of Women Voters of California Education Fund

• Single-use plastic bags are bad for the environment and harmful to wildlife. Proposition 67 protects animals and saves the state millions of dollars in cleanup costs.

• Many communities have already banned single-use plastic bags. It’s time to extend the ban across the state.

Opponents say — by the League of Women Voters of California Education Fund

• Proposition 67 would require stores to charge 10 cents for bags that can be reused, instead of offering them for free.

• Proposition 67 would allow grocery stores to keep millions of dollars from selling these bags.

How much is being spent on the campaigns?

What questions do you have about the Statewide General Election coming up on Nov. 8? Submit your questions here, and we'll try to answer them in our reporting.