California voters might be confused by the appearance of not one but two plastic bag propositions on the November ballot. That is exactly the confusion the plastic bag industry that funded the petition drives to get both initiatives on the ballot is trying to evoke.
Prop 67 would uphold SB 270, a law passed by the California legislature banning plastic bags. Prop 65 would redirect fees charged for paper or reusable bags toward environmental programs instead of being kept by the retailer.
The American Progressive Bag Alliance, the plastic industry’s trade group, was able to get both initiatives on the ballot by submitting more than 600,000 signatures for each proposition. On its proposition website it claims that the bags do little actual harm to the environment and are 100 percent recyclable.
“Through plastic bag recycling, companies are able to create playgrounds, benches, construction materials, and of course, new plastic bags,” the APBA said on its website.
Voice of San Diego’s Sara Libby and Ry Rivard hosted a “Lightning Round” at Politifest to help educate voters. Their coverage of Prop 65 challenged the plastic bag industry. The presence of Prop 65 on the ballot is essentially trying to cause enough confusion to lead voters to vote “no” on Prop 67.
“(Prop 65) exists only to confuse voters,” Libby said. “Research has shown that when there are different measures on the ballot that deal with the same thing, people tend to just vote ‘no.’”
Libby was correct. A study in Political Behavior said voter uncertainty plays a vital role in which propositions are put on the ballot. Research suggests that having two competing ballot measures causes voter confusion and gives opponents an advantage.
Mark Murray, executive director of the environmental group Californians Against Waste, agreed with Libby.
“Prop 65 is without real significance, designed to distract from the issue at hand: phasing out plastic shopping bags,” Murray said in the voter guide.
The APBA denies these claims on its proposition website, explaining that they want to make a difference by “protecting and preserving the Golden State.”
An analysis conducted by the independent Legislative Analyst Office said that if Prop 65 passes, revenue from the fees collected could reach tens of millions of dollars annually, most of which would otherwise have gone to the grocers to offset the cost of providing the reusable bags. It also concluded that if both measures pass, the one with more votes would supersede. Prop 65 will only go into effect if it has more votes than 67 and only if 67 also passes.
If Prop 67 fails, it would not affect the local bans that already are in place in 150 cities and counties in the state, including San Diego.
A “yes” vote on Prop 67 would actually protect the environment. A “yes” or “no” vote on Prop 65 is irrelevant if Prop 67 fails. The only comeback to the plastic industry’s attempt to confuse California voters is to vote “no” on Prop 65 and “yes” on Prop 67.