Hit & Run

California Statewide Ban on Plastic Bags May Get Binned

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And without plastic bags we wouldn't have Alan Ball. Wait, is that an argument for or against the ban?
Credit: eflon / photo on flickr

A terrible state law in California appears to be failing and we may have … unions … to thank. Hey, we're libertarians. We take allies wherever we can get them.

Yesterday a proposed statewide ban on single-use plastic bags (grocery stores and the like) failed to get enough votes in the state's Assembly. As the Sacramento Bee reports, banners lost support because of their proposed alternative—paper bags for 10 cents each. That money would go to the grocery stores' revenue. So liberty may benefit from a union's instinctive opposition to anything that causes their employers to earn more of a profit:

A key organized labor group removed its support and went neutral, which helped plastic and paper industries opposed to the bill. In a key late change, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union – grocery store workers – aligned with skeptics denouncing a minimum 10-cent fee stores could charge at checkout counters for paper or reusable bags. …

"This legislation creates a heavy financial burden on consumers and forces consumers to essentially decide how they would like to be taxed," said Assemblyman Dan Logue, R-Marysville. "They can either purchase a reusable bag to take to the store with them or they can spend 10 cents for every recycled bag they get at the store."

Republicans were not alone in voicing those reservations. Multiple Democrats rose to say the fee would burden consumers, and several voted no or abstained.

"To charge for a bag that's been given free as a part of doing business, I don't think is the way to go," said Assemblywoman Cheryl Brown, D-San Bernardino.

Disappontingly, the Bee simply allows supporters of the legislation to assert that the ban helps the environment without providing any actual evidence. In June, the Reason Foundation explored many of the claims that plastic bags were a significant source of litter and that plastic bag bans actually accomplish anything other than burdening the poor even further and found the claims wanting. Read more of their research here.

The bill is not formally dead yet. They have until the end of the week to try to get it passed.

Those of us in Los Angeles (and many other California municipalities) are still hosed, though, as our local bans remain intact. Here's Reason TV and Kennedy on the crafting of the Los Angeles ban: