State Bag Ban Dies; McGlashan Vows Local Push

Mill Valley supervisor said he plans to bring ordinance to the board later in the fall.

In his longstanding quest to get plastic grocery bags banned in Marin, Charles McGlashan had hoped helped was on the way. State bill AB 1998 used much of the language and details from the ordinance McGlashan had put together, and a statewide ban on plastic bags, and an accompanying fee on paper bags, would have made enforcement much easier, particularly at large chains like Safeway.

But AB 1998, which would have banned the use of plastic bags starting in 2012 at large grocery stores, failed in the state Senate Tuesday night, falling seven votes short. The measure was co-authored by state Sen. Mark Leno, who represents Marin County, and was approved by the state Assembly in June.

McGlashan said he was determined to renew his local efforts on the issue, which had slowed in the hopes that a statewide ban would trump a local law.

"Now that the state unfortunately failed to pass the paper bag fee and plastic single use bag ban, we'll have to do it at the local level," he said. "It's not surprising that the state took a very similar approach to ours because it makes the most economic and environmental sense. We had hoped that for the sake of the local economy, the state leaders would do it. They didn't, so we will."

McGlashan said he intends to get an ordinance on the board of supervisors' calendar later in the fall. Such a bill would affect the county's unincorporated areas, while local jurisdictions would pass their own legislation. Fairfax, for instance, has already passed its own plastic bag ban.

"I and many others are determined to see that happen," he said.

The state bill was vigorously opposed by a number of business organizations, led by the American Chemistry Council.  In 2009, the council spent nearly $1.4 million to overturn a planned 20-cent fee on plastic bags in that city that had been scheduled to go into effect in 2010.

"We congratulate Senate members for discarding a costly bill that provides no real solutions to California's litter problem and would have further jeopardized California's already strained economy," said Tim Shestek, senior director of state affairs in Sacramento for ACC, in a statement issued.

AB 1998's sponsor, California Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, D-Santa Monica, said in a statement that was disappointed the bill could not get through the Senate.

"This is a sad day for California. It's not a matter of if, but a matter of when consumers bring their own bags and become good stewards of the environment," she said.

The bill had garnered broad support from numerous environmental groups, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the California Grocers Association.

"It's clear that the Senate felt pressure by the American Chemistry Council's hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions [and the ACC's] misinformation campaign and radio, television, and print ads designed to kill this historic compromise," said Ronald Fong, president of CGA, in a statement. "This bill would've been good for consumers, good for business and good for the environment and its defeat is a failure for Californians. AB 1998 would have created a statewide standard that would have treated all stores equally."

McGlashan's office has a draft ordinance already in place, which was developed in cooperation with some business leaders and city council members from Mill Valley, Tiburon, Corte Madera, San Anselmo, Fairfax, San Rafael, and to a more limited extent, Novato. See the PDF of it attached to this story for the full text of the draft ordinance.

The bill would ban plastic bags at the checkout stand, though it would not enforce a ban on those provided elsewhere in grocery stores for things like produce, nuts, meats, medications and other goods. The bill would apply a 10-cent fee on each paper bag issued at checkout that would allow grocery stores to recoup the costs of paper bags.


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