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Los Angeles should bag the bag ban

November 12, 2010

Here we go again.


A little less than three months after California’s State Senate rejected an ill-advised plastic bag ban and paper bag tax out of a concern about the effect such a policy would have on jobs when unemployment is above 12%, Los Angeles County is set to pick up where the state’s politicians in Sacramento left off. On Tuesday, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors will consider a proposal that would ban plastic bags and require a fee on paper bags countywide.


But since the State Senate rejected the policy, Californians approved Proposition 26, a measure that requires a 2/3 supermajority vote in the state legislature or a local popular vote to raise certain fees. Los Angeles County and the bag ban’s proponents don’t seem to mind the new requirement; they argue that it does not apply simply because the grocers, not the government, gets to keep the fee. This appears to be an attempt to tiptoe around the vote requirement and, unfortunately, a disregard for the will of the voters who are fed up with stealth taxation through rising fees.


Plastic bag bans, taxes, and fees are only the latest fad in questionable public policy. Proponents claim that these will help reduce litter in the environment. But the fact of the matter is that as the price of a good increases or becomes less readily available, consumers either buy less of the good or, more likely, seek the good from another, cheaper source. Ironically, the less costly good may be of lower quality and more damaging to the environment. Bag bans and taxes in other metropolitan areas, such as Seattle and Washington, D.C. have not demonstrated much success.


Hopefully, Los Angeles County’s Board of Supervisors will come to their senses and reject this measure on Tuesday. If you live in Los Angeles County, you should can let the Board know by clicking here that disregarding popular opinion on requiring votes on fees to enact a questionable public policy is a terrible idea, and should be bagged.


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