California city finds loophole in statewide plastic bag ban
- After California voters passed Proposition 67 last month, a statewide plastic bag ban has gone into effect — but not for the small city of Lincoln, as reported by KCRA.
- The original state legislation, SB 270, has a clause that says any local government which passed a bag-related ordinance or regulation before September 2014 may continue to enforce it. The Lincoln City Council passed a resolution in August 2014 giving businesses the choice of which bags to use and whether they should charge for them.
- Advocacy group Californians Against Waste says this clause was meant to allow municipalities with existing bag bans or fee to keep their own regulations, not to let them get out of implementing the state law. The state has yet to say whether it will require Lincoln to comply with SB 270.
Some larger chain stores in Lincoln have already made the switch because it's easier for them to change their bag policy across all locations and other local businesses have done the same. Though based on Lincoln's 2014 resolution and the recent election results, the bag ban idea is unpopular in the area. Placer County, which contains Lincoln, went against Prop 67 with 58% of voters opposed.
The overall vote was a close one, narrowly passing with support from urban coastal counties and in spite of heavy opposition funding by plastic industry groups. Aside from Hawaii, which has a de facto ban based on county policies, California is now the first state to successfully pull this off. The loophole that Lincoln is citing will likely be something that legislators in other states will be wary of as they pursue their own bills.
Though Lincoln's resolution has different parameters, it is similar in spirit to a wave of anti-ban legislation being passed at the state level recently. Michigan is poised to become the latest state to prevent municipalities from passing any ban or fee ordinances and would join a number of others which have done the same. Though at the same time, Boston is considering its own bag ordinance which is seen as a potential tipping point for statewide legislation in Massachusetts, so the debate continues elsewhere.
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