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Election 2016 FAQ: Proposition 65, Money From Carry-Out Bags

Proposition 65.
California Counts
Proposition 65.

Proposition 65 requires grocery stores to turn over money from sale of reusable bags to a new state fund 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

You probably thought the plastic bag debate was over: The Legislature passed a statewide ban in 2014, and before that dozens of local governments in California had already banned supermarkets from handing out plastic bags at the checkout counter.

What you're voting on

But the plastic bag industry is fighting for manufacturing jobs, and brought not one but two measures to California’s ballot this year.

One is Proposition 67, which asks voters to approve or reject the statewide ban, which hasn’t yet taken effect.

Proposition 65 is about money.

Right now, when you forget to bring your reusable bag to the store and hand over a dime for a paper bag, the store keeps your money. The Legislative Analyst’s Office estimates that’s “several tens of millions of dollars annually.”

There are currently some 150 local laws banning plastic bags, and they generally require stores to use these funds to pay for the cost of reusable bags and for educational programs encouraging bag reuse.

Proposition 65 would redirect revenue from bag fees to a special fund administered by the Wildlife Conservation Board to support environmental projects.

Who are the supporters and opponents?

The American Progressive Bag Alliance, the industry trade group behind the measure, calls it the “Environmental Fee Protection Act.” The language argues that the bag fees are a special interest deal for grocers, and money should go “to protecting the environment, not enriching corporations.”

But most environmental groups who fought for the plastic bag ban, such as the Surfrider Foundation and Californians Against Waste, oppose Proposition 65. They say it’s a ploy to confuse voters so they simply vote “no” on both plastic bag measures, thus defeating the statewide ban passed by the Legislature.

What happens if

What happens to the bag fees ultimately depends on how voters decide both this measure and the statewide ban.

If voters approve the statewide ban and reject Proposition 65, then all retailers would be required to use the funds to pay for reusable bags and educational campaigns. (The statewide ban applies to areas where there isn’t a local ban. Local bans remain in place.)

If voters pass both measures, then whichever measure has more “yes” votes becomes the rule for how to spend the money.

If voters reject the statewide ban and approve Proposition 65, then cities and counties with local bans can continue to use funds as currently set up or they can opt to direct the money to the new special environment fund.

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

This measure could produce tens of millions of dollars for environmental programs. It is not clear what will happen until after the election. The effect on the state budget will depend on whether Proposition 67 passes. If both Propositions 65 and 67 pass, and 65 gets the most votes, then the money would go to the state account.

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

  • Grocery stores should not get to keep the money made from selling bags.
  • Proposition 65 would make sure the money collected from selling bags goes to help the environment.

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

  • Voters should support Proposition 67 instead. The most important thing is getting rid of plastic bags.
  • Proposition 65 will not make very much money for the state because people will start bringing their own bags.

How much is being spent on the campaigns?

Explore all national, state and local returns now.