Lincoln exempt from bag ban?

City Council addressed issue in 2014
By: Steve Archer, Reporter
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An action taken in August 2014 by the Lincoln City Council may have placed the city in the unique position of being exempt from a recently voter-approved, statewide proposition banning the use of plastic bags at the grocery store.

Proposition 67, approved by California voters on Nov. 8, restricts grocery stores, as well as convenience stores, liquor stores and pharmacies, from providing free single-use plastic carry out bags. Instead, stores will be required to charge 10 cents per carry-out bag provided. The stores are allowed to keep the money made from charging for the bags.

The Lincoln City Council approved a resolution in August of 2014 allowing retailers the option of eliminating plastic bags or not.

Across the state, California voters supported Prop. 67, the single-use plastic bag ban, by a margin of 6,895,246 (53.1 percent) yes votes to 6,083,772 (46.9 percent) no votes, according to the California Secretary of State’s office.

Placer County voters did not support the bag ban, with 106,813 (61.2 percent) no votes and 67,745 (38.8 percent) yes votes, according to the Placer County Elections Division.

And, in Lincoln, the ban on single-use plastic bags was not supported, with 13,542 (59 percent) voting no and 9,286 (41 percent) voting yes on Prop. 67, according to the Placer County Elections Division.

Heider Garcia, Placer County Elections manager, said Wednesday that the final and official numbers may vary a little bit.

“These results are as of Nov. 30,” Garcia said. “We still have a couple of thousand ballots to be counted.”

However, Garcia added, the official numbers are not likely to change the percentages of the votes cast.

Lincoln City Councilman Stan Nader said the city resolution allows business-owners to decide whether to provide plastic bags to their customers.

“I’ve talked to cashiers around town and they are getting a lot of grief,” Nader said Wednesday. “I assume it was a corporate decision on the part of Safeway and Wal-Mart to get with the state program of banning plastic bags. Raley’s is local and more likely has more freedom to choose.”

“I tell people ‘Vote with their feet.’ You don’t have to get mad at us,” Nader added. “I’ve talked to local small-business owners who appreciate having the freedom to choose. We’re not legislating either way; we’re giving the freedom to do one or the other.”

Nader said he recalls the council discussing a proposed statewide ban on single-use plastic bags in 2014.

“At the time, we were told by the city attorney that we could pass an ordinance before the proposition was voted on,” Nader said. “I didn’t realize we were the only city in the state to take that action. I did catch some grief, at the time, from people asking ‘How could you not do the right thing for the environment?’ I’m a private-rights person.”

Mark Murray, executive director of Californians Against Waste, said Wednesday that the Lincoln resolution is mostly a statement of intent.

“It does not really have the force of law,” Murray said. “I think that’s why most stores are complying with the state law.”

Murray said originally, prior to passage of Proposition 26, which requires a two-thirds vote for any tax increase, the bag-ban language called for a five-cent charge per bag, with four cents going to environmental cleanup.

“Grocers and retailers have been good sports,” Murray said. “There aren’t any bag police out there. Ideally, everyone will be on board by the end of the year. I’m excited about the fact that some 25 million plastic bags per day in California have been banned.”

Chelsea Minor, director of public relations and public affairs for Raley’s, said her company has decided to honor the decision of the Lincoln City Council and not enforce the bag ban.

“Based on our interpretation, and the way the resolution is written, we have the option,” Minor said Wednesday. “Raley’s will eliminate single-use plastic bags but will not be enforcing the fee. Raley’s will still provide paper bags.”

Minor added she expects plastic bags to be out of Raley’s stores soon.

Lincoln Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market manager Don Kolstrup declined to comment Wednesday on the bag ban and his company’s policy.