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Calif. Senate passes first state ban on plastic bags

The measure cleared the Senate on a 22-to-15 vote Friday and was sent to Governor Jerry Brown.

AP/File

The measure cleared the Senate on a 22-to-15 vote Friday and was sent to Governor Jerry Brown.

SACRAMENTO — California lawmakers have approved a measure that would make the state the first to impose a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags.

The measure cleared the Senate on a 22-to-15 vote Friday and was sent to Governor Jerry Brown. It was approved by the Assembly a day earlier.

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Senators who had previously opposed the bill, including incoming Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, a Los Angeles Democrat, this time supported the measure after protections were added for plastic bag manufacturers.

The bill by Senator Alex Padilla, Democrat of Los Angeles, would prohibit single-use plastic bags at grocery stores and large pharmacies in 2015 and at convenience stores in 2016.

It includes $2 million in loans to help manufacturers shift to producing reusable bags and lets grocers charge 10 cents each for paper and reusable bags.

The bill had sparked one of the most contentious debates in the last weeks of the legislative session, with aggressive lobbying by environmentalists and bag manufacturers.

For years, a statewide plastic bag ban has been an elusive goal for lawmakers trying to reduce the buildup of plastic waste in oceans and waterways that costs millions of dollars to clean up.

About 100 local jurisdictions in California have adopted similar bans, including Los Angeles and San Francisco.

In another environmental matter, the California Legislature on Friday cleared a package of bills that would overhaul the state’s longstanding “pump-as-you-please” groundwater policy.

The bills, also sent to the governor for his signature, were prompted by the worst drought in a generation in California.

The state would begin regulating its groundwater supply for the first time under the legislative package. It would require some local governments to develop groundwater-management plans and allows the state to intervene if necessary.

The issue is critical as the state deals with its third year of drought, which has forced farmers to let fields go fallow and led to widespread unemployment in the Central Valley.

Groundwater accounts for 60 percent of the state’s water use during drought years.

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