California passes plastic bag ban

California's legislature has passed a ban on single-use plastic bags. It could soon be the first ban of its kind implemented at a state level.

State lawmakers passed the bill along with a host of other measures during a late-night session Friday, after initially failing to clear the legislature in an earlier vote. It now heads to Gov. Jerry Brown's desk for approval. 

If signed, the proposal would ban grocery and convenience stores from providing plastic bags for their customers. Shoppers would have to either bring their own bags or pay 10 cents at the checkout for a paper or reusable plastic bag. (Video via KXTV)

Similar plastic bag bans have cropped up in cities and counties across the U.S. — including about 124 places in California — but this would be the first state-wide ban.

The issue has attracted heated debate. Proponents of the ban say plastic bags are often not recycled and pollute the environment with hard-to-eliminate waste. A lot of that waste makes its way to the ocean, where activists say it poses a hazard to marine wildlife. (Video via YouTube / Healthebay)

​​But some conservatives disagree.

Per Lisa Kennedy Montgomery on the  FOX Business channel: "Recyclable plastic bags are not the enemy, why does the government have to get up in our business? Have you ever tried picking up dog crap with a paper bag? It's ridiculous!" 

Californian Republicans argue the bill will take away jobs from bag manufacturers, and the 10-cent bag surcharge might hurt lower-income families. ​ Assemblyman Don Wagner, R-Irvine  told The Sacremento Bee, "It makes absolutely no sense as tax policy, it makes no sense as a jobs policy."

The bill managed to overcome some of those objections with additional protections for manufacturers, including a $2 million fund for bag makers to retool their assembly lines to produce more sustainable bags.

But  Bloomberg writer Adam Minter worries this measure will be more of a symbolic gesture than a meaningful change:

"These are feel-good measures, an easy way for civic leaders to demonstrate their concern for the environment without requiring too much of their constituents or local businesses. ... They risk fueling a self-congratulatory complacency that distracts from more serious challenges," Minter writes. 

The plastic bag ban was just one of the measures sent to Brown's desk this weekend. Other bills include regulations for groundwater pumping and requirements for most employers to provide at least three paid sick days each year.

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