Ultra-liberal Assemblywoman Julia Brownley is at it again — she has decided once again to try and prevail upon the state legislature and Governor that it is in the state’s interest to ban the use of 100% recyclable plastic grocery bags and charge (read: tax) people for other bags. This is not the first time she has attempted to do something like this — most recently in the 2010 legislative session, she authored AB 1998, also a statewide plastic bag ban. Faced with a strong wall of bipartisan opposition two years ago, AB 1998 failed to garner enough votes to pass the State Senate. I would urge state legislators to similarly reject Brownley’s latest effort.
There are so many reasons to oppose the bag ban bill, I literally could write a 3,000 word essay. But the number one reason, hands down, is that this is nanny-state government rearing its head once again. Why should the ECO-nuts have to figure out how to wage a public information campaign to persuade consumers to their point of view when, instead, they can use the coercive force of government to achieve their goals? We’ve seen what they do — they spread false information about the impacts of plastic bags on the environment. They of course fail to mention that such a ban would be a job killer (30,000 people across the U.S. are employed by the plastic bag manufacturing and recycling industry, including thousands in California) and needlessly raise costs on consumers. Liberals like Brownley fail to understand that the reason why plastic bags are the most popular means by which we take home our groceries is their convenience, which is why so many people were incensed when Brownley tried a couple of years ago, without success, to pass this poor public policy.
As you read this, you may be asking yourself, “Why haven’t I heard more about this before? Isn’t it almost the end of the legislative session?”
The answer is that Brownley actually didn’t introduce a bag ban bill when legislative session began. No bag ban bill weaved its way through the traditional process, being heard by relevant policy committees. And no such ban bill was passed by the Assembly before the deadline had passed for legislation to have passed its house of origin. That is because Assemblywoman Brownley has engaged in the shameful and anti-transparency practice of completely changing the contents of a bill after it has already been through the legislative process, and putting in entirely new language. In legislative slang, it is a process referred to as “gut and amend” that is so frowned upon that even the head of California Common Cause has said that all gut and amend bills should all be vetoed.
Assembly Bill 298, as originally introduced, was legislation that dealt with the issue that reusable grocery bags can get all gross and carry germs and disease. Brownley’s original bill would have required all reusable bags to be 100% lead-free (yes, many have been found to contain unsafe levels of lead) and to have instructions printed on them for how to properly clean them to prevent cross-contamination and illness. But on July 18th, just a couple of weeks before the legislature took their summer break, Browney performed the “gut and amend” slight of hand, completely replacing the content of the bill. So now we head into the final weeks of the legislative session, and Brownley’s attempt to use stealth to keep opposition to her bill from coalescing almost worked — except now the jig, as they say, is up. More and more people are becoming aware of Brownley’s ideological play that would infringe on the lifestyles of virtually every consumer in California.
Look, as a practical matter, California is a big state, with very diverse communities. There are some towns that seem to attract liberals like moths to a flame. In many of those cities, local plastic bag bans have been adopted, although with most of them, there is also a mandated fee/tax for purchasing a paper bag, as these control-freaks seek to force you, as a consumer, into a reusable bag. And there is a legal challenge right now, as to whether such local ordinances with the mandated fee/tax violate Prop. 26’s mandate that such a fee must be considered by the voters. Brownley’s own home town of Santa Monica (she is a candidate for Congress in a district 18 miles away, but her former Democrat opponent in the Congressional race points out she has a million dollar condo in right near the beach), which is one of the most liberal in the whole state, has banned plastic grocery bags. It’s simply not enough for these folks to have local communities discuss and determine whether to weigh in on this issue, Brownley wants a top-down mandate on every single square inch of California.
It is critical, at this juncture, for those who care about defending their freedom to act. It is critical for those who think that the left should not be able to lie and mislead people about the facts, to act. It is critical for those people who think that more job-killing, nanny-state legislation in the middle of a recession is insane, to act. Contact your local legislators, and share this column with everyone you know. Brownley’s only chance to pass this terrible legislation will be if her last minute “gut and amend” strategy works — getting a bill onto the Governor’s desk before you, me, and the other normal people of California can stop it. Act now to stop AB 298.