By David Siders
Published: Friday, Aug. 29, 2014 – 11:36 pm
Last Modified: Saturday, Aug. 30, 2014 – 11:44 am

California lawmakers narrowly approved a sweeping plastic bag ban Friday, leaving Gov. Jerry Brown to decide the fate of the controversial bill in an election year.

The ban, the subject of years of debate, was one of the most heavily lobbied issues in the final days of the legislative session, with back-and-forth votes this week. The Senate approved the measure 22-15 on Friday.

The measure could be politically difficult for Brown, a longtime champion of environmental causes but a relatively moderate Democrat, especially on issues of concern to business.

In addition to banning lightweight plastic bags from grocery stores, the bill would have customers pay at least a dime for a paper or reusable plastic bag.

“The most simple elegant solution to avoid paying a 10-cent fee at a grocery store would be to bring a reusable bag, and that is the ultimate objective of this bill,” said Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, who carried the measure.

Opponents in the plastic and paper bag industries focused their attacks on the fee, characterizing it as a windfall for grocers. A prominent grocers union temporarily withdrew its support for the legislation after citing concerns that money from the fee would inflate store profits.

When Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, promoted the bill in his house, Jon Fleischman, the conservative blogger and former state GOP executive director, responded on Twitter with a hashtag: “NANNYSTATE.”

“This is big government taking over local agencies’ responsibilities,” said Sen. Jean Fuller, R-Bakersfield.

The bill reflected a compromise between some industry groups and environmentalists. It allows plastic manufacturers to apply for grants from a $2 million state fund to change their operations to make bags sanctioned by the new bill.


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