Republican Strategist Proposes Referendum on Bag Ban

Having been defeated at the local level, in the legislature, and facing an increasingly likely signature from Governor Brown, opponents of the plastic bag ban appear to be turning to a potential Voter Referendum in order to delay and block statewide implementation.

Republican Political Strategist Tony Quinn has written a piece for the conservative Fox & Hounds blogsite, suggesting that investing a couple million dollars in signature gathering for a Voter Referendum would have multiple benefits:

“Perhaps the plastic bag industry will step up: if they did refer the bill it would be suspended for two years until the voters could vote on it in November 2016.”
“…just when Hillary Clinton is on her way to her coronation. It could help the republican Candidate in 2016 if she were forced to explain why this new tax on middle class moms is such a good idea.”


Quinn’s thesis appears to be lifted in part from a leaked strategy memo. In August 2010, after former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger indicated that he was prepared to sign a plastic bag ban if the legislature got it to his desk, a political consulting firm prepared a 9 page ‘Strategy Memo’ for the plastic bag industry that outlined a plan and budget for overturning the policy through a voter referendum.

“…a loss in the California Legislature with no referendum challenge would encourage others at both the state and local levels to pursue banning plastic bags with impunity. Additionally, if the referendum is successful and the ban is defeated, the California Legislature would be legally precluded from enacting an identical ban and politically precluded from enacting similar bans for a significant period of time.”

As I reported to you this weekend, we are not out of the woods yet. The plastics industry—boosted by conservative bloggers and talk radio—is working overtime to turn public opinion against the plastic bag ban:

Plastics News Poll: “What’s the Best Argument Against Bag Bans and Taxes?

The plastics industry has demonstrated over the years that they will stop at nothing to prevent bags from being eliminated, preserving $1.8 billion per year in plastic bag sales. They’ve spend millions on lobbying and campaign contributions. They’ve sued multiple local governments to block implementation of local ordinances. And they’ve even paid PR consultants and lobbyists in a thwarted attempt to have false and misleading ‘benefits of plastic bags’ added to California’s education curriculum.

So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that they are prepared to spend $2-$3 million to pay signature gathers to place a voter referendum on the state ballot.
We’ve worked too hard, and for too long to let this huge environmental opportunity slip through our fingers.

  • ACTION #1: Click here and submit this letter to Governor Brown urging him to sign Senate Bill 270. We will print and deliver your letter in person when we next meet with the Governor.
  • ACTION #2: Voice your support for the bag ban via social media, a letter to the editor or simply post comments when there are online articles in local and national media. You can find links to the latest articles on our website at: www.cawrecycles.org
  • ACTION #3: Finally, I hope we can count on you to send a special ‘Ban the Bag’ campaign contribution so we can expand our ‘earned’ and social media campaign, counter opposition claims and increase public support. Click here to make your online contribution now.

You know the environmental arguments in support of this legislation:

  • Elimination of 13 billion single-use plastic grocery bags annually;
  • Reduction of a major source of plastic litter and ocean pollution;
  • Conservation of natural resource use and reduced greenhouse gas emissions;
  • Preventing harm to wildlife and a visual blight on our environment.

And our most recent analysis looking at the successful implementation of local bag bans demonstrates that the benefits go well beyond reducing plastic litter and waste:

  • Reducing Grocery Costs: last year plastic bags added $225 million to the price of groceries;
  • Growing Green Jobs: California’s growing reusable bag sector already employs hundreds.

But simply ‘being right’ isn’t enough. We’ve got to get our message to the broader public. The stakes are high. This is no longer a local/coastal environmental issue, but rather a statewide policy that has the potential to sweep across the country. The plastics industry knows that and they are airing ads in the Central Valley, Orange County, North Eastern California, and the Imperial Valley.

Your contribution to this campaign will provide us the resources needed to generate earned media and social media to build and demonstrate a groundswell of public support for the elimination of plastic shopping bags and a transition to reusable bags. You can make your campaign contribution right now at:www.cawrecycles.org

And your letter, combined with thousands of others, is the most tangible way that we can demonstrate public support for this policy.

Thank you for your faith and support over the course of this campaign. We are so close to victory. Please help us finish the job!