Both propositions 65 and 67 deal with the subject of plastic bags but in opposing ways. If both pass, depending on which proposition receives the highest number of votes, both measures could either coexist or one could render the other moot.

Prop 65, called the Environmental Fee Protection Act, proposes to redirect money from 10-cent fees charged by grocers for recycled paper bags to an environmental fund. The measure is funded primarily by out-of-state plastic bag manufacturers and is opposed by in-state environmentalists.

Prop 67, called the Plastic Ban Veto Referendum, ratifies legislation passed in 2014 to ban plastic bags statewide. It contains no language to direct fees to environmental causes and yet is supported by environmentalists.

Prop 65 can only go into effect if there is a statewide plastic bag ban that passage of Prop 67 would enact. The propositions are dueling and oddly intertwined.

If both pass, the one getting the higher number of total votes affects the way in which paper bag fees charged by grocers would be dispersed. Confused? Here are the specifics.

Prop 67 is relatively clear-cut. It seeks to make permanent a ban on the use of plastic bags in designated stores enacted by the California Legislature in 2014 as SB 270. The legislation was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown but held in abeyance pending voter ratification on the November 2016 ballot.

If passed by voters, Prop 67 would ratify SB 270, and prohibit large grocery stores and pharmacies from providing single-use plastic carryout bags. The ban would apply the following year to small grocery stores, convenience stores and liquor stores.

Smaller single-use plastic bags for meat, bread, produce, bulk food and perishable items would still be permitted.

Passage of Prop 67 would also mandate the stores (defined by annual sales of $2 million or more, and square footage of 10,000 square feet or more) to charge a minimum of 10 cents for recycled, compostable and reusable grocery bags. Bag purchase exemptions for lower-income state residents (those who pay with a payment card or voucher from the California Special Supplemental Food Program for women, infants and children) are part of the proposition’s text. Grocers would retain revenues from paper-bag sales to offset their costs to purchase.

Passage of Prop 67 would also provide in-state, plastic-bag manufacturers (not out-of-state companies) $2 million for the purpose of transitioning to manufacture of thicker, multi-use recycled plastic bags that meet state standards for recycled bags.

If passed, Prop 67 violators, defined as “persons or entities who knew or should have known” of the law’s provisions to ban plastic bags, would be fined at the rate of $1,000 a day for first violation, $2,000 for second, and $5,000 for third or subsequent violations.

Supporters of Prop 67, including many environmental groups, argue that those funding the fight against 67 are large, out-of-state plastic-bag manufacturers who have no vested interest in protecting California’s environment and simply wish to continue sales of plastic bags to state businesses. They note that Prop 65 is a “disingenuous end run” around Prop 67’s plastic-bag ban and recommend that the surest way to protect the environment is to ban plastic bags statewide.

Supporters further contend passage of Prop 67 would reduce litter, protect oceans and wildlife, reduce statewide litter cleanup costs, and add impetus to the ongoing effort by cities and counties statewide to phase out plastic bags.

The same organizations and manufacturers who oppose Prop 67 (large, plastic-bag manufacturers) are the ones supporting Prop 65’s passage.

They argue that a statewide paper-bag ban will cost California consumers “more money” since they will have to pay 10¢ per recycled paper bag at checkout. They neglect to note that consumers in jurisdictions with existing plastic-bag bans can choose to carry their own reusable bags when they go shopping to avoid anymore bag charges. They also don’t acknowledge that for their legislation to be applicable, a statewide paper-bag ban must be in effect.

Opponents also argue that grocers would get to keep revenue from recycled paper-bag sales (under the provisions of Prop 67) and that bag-sale revenues should be redirected to an environmental fund that would better serve state consumers’ interests.

Prop 65 proposes to redirect revenue from grocer fees for recycled paper bags (10 cent minimum) to a new state environmental fund administered by the state Wildlife Conservation Board. Its provisions depend entirely on passage of Prop 67 and a statewide ban of plastic bags being in effect. If no statewide ban (Prop 67) is in effect, then Prop 65 is moot.

If both pass, then for Prop 65 to succeed in diverting grocer fees to a new environmental fund, it would have to receive more total votes than Prop 67.

Diverted fees would then go to the new state fund to be used to support grants for programs and projects related to drought mitigation; recycling; clean drinking water supplies; state, regional and local parks; beach cleanup; litter removal; and wildlife habitat restoration.

If Prop 67 gets more total votes, then grocers would retain fees (minimum 10 cents per recyclable bag), and the provisions of Prop 65 would be moot.

Opponents of 65 say the proposed redirect of grocer revenues from paper-bag sales is “payback” to grocers who changed sides in the plastic-bag war and now support the ban saying it’s what their consumers want.

Top financial contributors to Prop 65 include Hilex Poly Co. LLC (South Carolina), Formosa Plastics (New Jersey), Superbag Corp. (Texas) and Advance Polybag Inc. (Nevada).

Top financial contributors to Prop 67 include Albertsons Safeway, California Grocers Association and Californians Against Waste. Founded in 1977, CAW is a nonprofit environmental research and advocacy organization that identifies, develops, promotes and monitors policy solutions to pollution and conservation problems posing a threat to public health and the environment.

A partial list of Prop 67 supporters includes California Coastal Coalition, California Labor Federation, California League of Conservation Voters, Heal the Bay, Natural Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club of California.

A partial list of Prop 65 supporters includes American Forest and Paper Association, American Progressive Bag Alliance, California Manufacturers and Technology Association and the Association of California Cities – Orange County.

Prop 67 supporters have raised nearly $2 million. Opponents have raised just over $5 million.

Prop 67 supporters, including many of the state’s major newspapers’ editorial boards (Los Angeles Times, Sacramento Bee, San Jose Mercury News and San Francisco Chronicle) recommend voting “yes” on 67 and “no” on 65 to avoid confusion over interpretation and outcome.

Major cities with existing plastic bag bans include Berkeley, Beverly Hills, Oakland, Sacramento, San Diego, San Jose, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Long Beach.


  1. The gentleman wrote: “It’s totally wrong that if 65 gets more votes than 67 it wins. That’s not how 65 is written. Ask any election lawyer.”

    The gentleman misreads Marshall Smith’s story. Smith did not write that if 65 gets more votes than 67 “it wins.” He wrote that Prop 67 must pass in order for Prop 65 to have any effect at all. He then wrote: “If both pass, then for Prop 65 to succeed in diverting grocer fees to a new environmental fund, it would have to receive more total votes than Prop 67.”

    That is completely in accord with the Legislative Analyst’s statement at
    (See the section under “Fiscal Effects.”)

    Jack Clark
    general counsel
    Idyllwild Town Crier