Hit & Run

Calif. Plastic Bag Ban Survives After All (As Do Other Bad Bills)

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Tim Gunn does not approve of this outfit.
Credit: Heal the Bay / photo on flickr

After failing to get enough votes in the Assembly earlier in the week, California's plastic bag ban has managed to survive and pass a second vote. It doesn't appear that anybody actually made a better case for banning bags (probably because there really isn't a good reason for it). Rather, it appears the union that represents grocery workers dropped its resistance to the bill after some sort of deal with Safeway. Unions had resistant to the bill because the 10 cent fee for paper bags went to the grocery companies to do with as they choose (and presumably, not to the union members). There's no indication of what the deal is, but the United Food and Commercial Workers Union now supports the bill, and it passed the Assembly, 44-29. It still needs to pass the Senate before heading for Gov. Jerry Brown's signature.

In other state legislation, the California State Senate has passed the college "affirmative consent" law that requires colleges to implement a policy of requiring students to seek "affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity" if they want their government money. Time explains:

There is some disagreement in higher education about whether the affirmative consent standard is the best practice. Though many colleges have adopted it, Harvard recently rewrote its sexual assault policy without adopting an affirmative consent standard, to the dismay of women's advocates. Harvard's Title IX Officer, Mia Karvonides, said the school rejected such a policy because there is no "standard definition of affirmative consent," according to the student newspaper The Crimson. Critics of affirmative consent policies often point to an unrealistic set of standards set in 1991 by Antioch University in Ohio, which required verbal consent (excluding "moans") for "each new level" of sexual activity—a standard that doesn't reflect the real interactions between human beings during sex.

The California bill stops short of Antioch's standard.The bill's language clarifies the definition of consent by stating what it is not. "Lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent, nor does silence mean consent," it reads. "Affirmative consent must be ongoing throughout a sexual activity and can be revoked at any time. The existence of a dating relationship between the persons involved, or the fact of past sexual relations between them, should never by itself be assumed to be an indicator of consent."

Reason Contributing Editor Cathy Young examined the problems with this kind of sexual nannyism here.

And finally (at least for this blog post—no doubt there will be future bad bills originating from California's legislature), the state is tripling the funding for the state's film tax credit program to $330 million a year. Is the state also cutting spending by $330 million to make up for it? Don't be silly. The Tax Foundation offers a simple primer as to why film tax credits don't really work as advertised:

In the last decade, state governments have enacted numerous movie production incentives (MPIs), including tax credits for film production. MPIs are popular with state officials and many of their constituents but often escape routine oversight about benefits, costs and activities. Based on fanciful estimates of economic activity and tax revenue, states invest in movie production projects with small returns and take unnecessary risks with taxpayer dollars.

MPIs fail to live up to their promises to encourage economic growth overall and to raise tax revenue. States claim MPIs create jobs, but the jobs created are mostly temporary positions—often transplanted from other states—with limited options for upward mobility. Furthermore, the competition among states transfers a large portion of potential gains to the movie industry, not to local businesses or state coffers.

In this case, California has been losing jobs to other states, so the tax credits are just a flat out bribe for industries to stay here. With this new money, the state is also eliminating its lottery system of distribution and will instead determine who gets tax credits based on how many jobs each production will create, which seems like it will heavily favor the major studios. The Los Angeles Times has more information here.