"Paper or plastic?" no longer will be asked by checkout clerks when the new law goes into effect Jan 1, 2011. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenneger is expected to sign the law which he endorsed earlier before Thursday's passage by the Legislature.
The state was first in the nation to adopt controls on property tax increases in 1978 and voters in 2004 were first in the nation to approve $3 billion in bond sales for stem cell research. The state is also one of the most dysfunctional in the nation in recent years, beset with fiscal woes.
Schwarzenegger called the law "a great victory for our environment.
Plastic bags have long been a kill target for environmentalists because they are not biodegradable, meaning they stay for a long time in landfills and oceans. The goal is to reduce their accumulation.
Shoppers will be encouraged to buy reusable canvas bags stores sell for about $1 each. Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, D-Santa Monica, said shoppers who forget their reusables will be issued paper bags made of 40% recycled material for a nickel each.
In 2007, Annapolis, Md., was the first U.S. city to propose a total ban on plastic checkout bags when then-Alderman Sam Shropshire waged a campaign against them. While Maryland's bag campaign failed, it fueled efforts in other cities.
California legislators, who draw an annual salary of $110,880, failed to heed complaints from low-income advocacy groups that the mandated purchase of paper or reusable bags were too costly.