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Tense Moments for California's Proposed Plastic Bag Ban [Updated]

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[Update, 11:35 p.m: In a later call, the bill officially failed. Read the story here.]

Although some reports are indicating that a bill to ban plastic and other single-use bags in California has failed in the State Senate, ultimately killing the bill, that was not the case as of 11 p.m. Tuesday night. An e-mailed update from the office of the bill's author, Assemblymember Julia Brownley (D - Santa Monica), explained the technical details:

The Senate vote on AB 1998, the Single-Use Bag Ban bill, now stands at 14 ayes, 20 nos. The bill needs 21 votes to pass. A “call” has been placed on the bill, which means the bill is on hold while Sen. Gil Cedillo, who presented it, in conjunction with Asm. Brownley, seek more yes votes. Some members have not cast votes. A final vote has not been taken. When it is, I will update the status.

The bill must be taken up by midnight, when the legislative session ends. Additionally, the State Assembly, which approved an earlier version of the bill in June, must vote on amendments made by Senate committees during August by midnight as well. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in June also voiced his support for the ban.

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Here are the key points of the bill:

  • It would ban all single-use bags from supermarkets and large pharmacies in 2012, and from smaller grocery stores, convenience and liquor stores in 2013.
  • If customers do not bring or purchase a reusable bag, the only bag stores will be able to give to customers is a paper bag made from 40% post-consumer material.
  • Stores can charge for each bag they give out, but can only pass on the cost and not profit from it. Those receiving government assistance, such as food stamps, will receive the bags for free.

A number of Senators stood up and spoke against the bill. "This goes backwards," said Senator Jeff Denham (R - Merced), explaining that producing paper bags would be environmentally disastrous. "Really? This is better for the environment?"