The future of plastic grocery bags in California remained a mystery Tuesday night, with voters closely split on a referendum challenging a statewide ban on the bags, but they appeared to be defeating an initiative redirecting money collected by stores from the sale of carry-out bags to a fund supporting environmental projects.
Proposition 67 would bar grocery stores and other selected retail outlets from handing out single-use plastic bags, but would allow them to sell recycled paper bags and reusable bags for a minimum of 10 cents.
The state Legislature approved the ban and the governor signed it into law in 2014, but a referendum forced the issue onto the ballot. A yes vote will uphold the ban, while a no vote will reject it.
Early returns show the ban with a narrow lead, with 51 percent of the vote.
Opponents of the ban say it amounts to a tax increase by charging shoppers 10 cents for a bag, amounting to about $300 million a year that goes back into the pockets of grocers. Proponents, however, say the referendum was mounted by out-of-state plastic-bag manufacturers looking to protect their profits.
Many California cities and counties, including Los Angeles, have adopted plastic bag bans that are already being enforced.
Meanwhile, voters were defeating Proposition 65, which would legislate the use of money raised by the statewide ban. Passage of the initiative would potentially result in the several tens of millions of dollars annually being transferred to a special fund administered by the Wildlife Conservation Board for certain environmental and natural resources purposes, according to an analysis conducted by the Legislative Analyst’s Office and Department of Finance.
Opponents of Prop 65 contend that the bag-manufacturing companies are behind the initiative, which they claim was created for the sole purpose of confusing voters while doing little to help the environment.
–City News Service
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