California was the first state in the country to ban the use of plastic shopping bags in retail and grocery stores. But the ban has now been put on hold as state election officials confirmed that a group has gathered enough signatures to challenge the ban and place the issue on the 2016 ballot.
The American Progressive Bag Alliance, which represents bag manufacturers, had about 50,000 more valid signatures than the 505,000 needed to qualify the referendum after a random sample of the signatures was tallied, said Bill Mabie, chief deputy for Secretary of State Alex Padilla.
The group had submitted more than 800,000 signatures at the end of last year.
Governor Jerry Brown signed the bag ban legislation into law last fall, after a hostile battle between environmentalists and bag-makers. The ban was supposed to be phased-in, starting in July of this year.
The plastic bag alliance says the ban will costs jobs.
“California voters will now have the chance to vote down a terrible law that, if implemented, would kill 2,000 local manufacturing jobs and funnel obscene profits to big grocers without any money going to a public purpose or environmental initiative,” the group’s executive director, Lee Califf, said in a news release.
Supporters of the ban complained that opponents spent millions of dollars on the referendum campaign.
“This is a cynical ploy by out-of-state interests desperate to delay a ban already adopted in more than 100 communities across California,” Brown’s spokesman Evan Westrup said.
But supporters of the bill are confident that Californians will uphold the ban at the ballot box.
Mark Murray, a spokesman for Californians vs. Big Plastic, said the coalition of environmental, labor and business groups is confident California voters will uphold the ban. “It’s not surprising that after spending more than $3.2 million, 98 percent of which is from out of state, the plastic bag industry has bought its way onto the California ballot to protect its profits,” Murray said.
Already the environmentalists have successfully pushed for bans in cities around the country, as well in California. Seattle, Chicago and Austin already have bans, as well as Los Angeles and San Francisco.