Grocery shopping in California may soon be changed forever. Governor Jerry Brown is slated to sign into law a California measure banning the use of plastic bags. On Friday, California lawmakers voted in favor of the bill by a margin of 22-15, citing environmental concerns as justification for their support. This is actually the second time such a bill has come forward on the state Senate floor, but the first time it will make it to the governor's desk. Think carefully, Governor Brown, the fate of grocery shoppers everywhere rests in your pen.
California Senator Alex Padilla, who sponsored the bill, told Reuters, "Single-use plastic bags not only litter our beaches, but also our mountains, our deserts, and our rivers, streams and lakes." While these bags are cheaper than paper bags, they are not biodegradable, and shoppers tend to throw them away, not recycle them. In fact, CalRecycle estimates that a mere 3 percent of the 10 billion plastic bags used in California every year are recycled. The rest simply pile up in landfills, and some are later swept out into the ocean where they present a hazard to marine life.
Last year, Padilla supported a nearly identical measure, but it failed to make its way out of state Senate, lacking three critical votes. This year, however, is a whole new story. But even though the plastic bag ban has the support of the majority of the Senate, whether Governor Brown will agree with state legislators is yet to be determined. Brown, it seems, has yet to indicate his opinions on the bill, which will keep Californians biting their nails until September 30, the deadline to make a decision.
The bill proposes that stores charge a 10-cent fee to provide customers with either a thicker, reusable bag or a paper bag. This has become a contentious aspect of the bill, with critics saying that the extra charge puts an undue burden on California's low-income demographic. However, supporters of the bill have pointed out that families that are eligible for food stamps or nutrition programs are not required to pay the 10-cent fee, and will receive these reusable or paper bags for free.
Other naysayers have accused the bill of eliminating jobs, which are already hard to come by in a faltering California economy. Lee Califf, executive director of the Washington, DC-based American Progressive Bag Alliance, told San Jose Mercury News,
It's disappointing that members of the Assembly voted to advance a bill that threatens 2,000 California manufacturing jobs, hurts consumers and puts billions of dollars into the pockets of grocers -- without providing any benefit to the environment.
But environmental groups and other supporters claim that no loss of jobs are necessary, as the bill provides "$2 million in competitive loans to bag-makers to transition into making reusable bags." Moreover, these competitive loans would only be given to factories that keep their workers. This means that plastic bag factory employees wouldn't be out of a job — just making a different product.
Mark Murray, executive director of Californians Against Waste, spoke to the Californian Senate on Friday, saying,
We now have years of data from cities and counties throughout California to show that this policy is not just working to reduce plastic-bag litter and waste and pollution, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but it’s saving consumers money and there has not been a loss of jobs.
All these issues aside, however, some California Republicans are accusing the bill of being un-American, with state Senator Ted Gaines of Rocklin stating, "I'm quite frankly offended by having the state dictate what we need and don’t need in our lives."
Of course, California isn't exactly pulling this idea out of thin air. Already, 120 Californian cities and counties have these bans in place, and Padilla's bill would simply unify a series of similar local laws.
While this may be a somewhat strange law, California's plastic bag ban is by no means the strangest of legislation to be passed by states in the union. Here are just a few more, courtesy of Gizmodo and Upcounsel, that make this ban look as necessary as the Bill of Rights.
In Arizona, cutting down a cactus is a crime punishable by up to 25 years in prison. Add that to the list of things that are deemed more dastardly than sexual assault.
Moreover, while owning one sex toy is perfectly fine, and even two is ok, owning three or more is illegal.
There are also parts of Indiana where it is illegal to use public transportation or really, to be in public, within four hours of having eaten an onion or garlic. Indiana definitely has some fetish with the number four.
PDA is the worst, wouldn't you agree? Idaho would, which is why they made it illegal for you to kiss in public for more than 18 minutes. At 17 minutes, everyone around you will be grossed out, but you won't get throw in jail.
In Eureka, men with moustaches are forbidden from kissing women. I don't know that I disagree with this law.
Maryland takes its wildlife very seriously, which is why it is illegal to mistreat an oyster. No word yet on whether eating an oyster counts as mistreatment, or whether it's just standing an oyster up on a date that is a no-no.
Given Clay Aiken's success on American Idol, it comes as no surprise that it is illegal in North Carolina to sing off-key.
Don't get your fish, or any fish for that matter, drunk in Ohio. It is illegal.
Quitman, Georgia must've gotten really tired of "Why did the chicken cross the road" jokes because they made it illegal for chickens to cross the road. Unclear how chickens are punished for crossing the road.
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