SACRAMENTO — Restaurants in California would not be able to give out plastic straws unless a customer asked for one under a bill passed by the state Legislature Thursday and headed to Gov. Jerry Brown.
AB1884 by Assemblyman Ian Calderon, D-Whittier (Los Angeles County), would create a straws-only-upon-request policy at dine-in restaurants, in the latest attempt to reduce plastic pollution in the state. Three years ago, California lawmakers passed a ban on single-use plastic bags. Last month, Starbucks announced it would ditch plastic straws from all its stores — not just in California — by 2020.
“This does a lot of good, and I think it is the right first step and the right balance when it comes to helping us try to tackle the issue of single-use plastics in our environment,” Calderon said.
The bill is a light first step. It does not apply to the biggest source of plastic straw pollution — fast-food restaurants, cafes, delis or any takeout orders. The bill passed the Assembly 45-20 on Thursday, with Republicans largely voting against it. It passed the Senate 27-12 on Monday.
“When I take my wife out to eat and we sit down and finally have a chance to get away from the kids, I’m not looking for a lecture on straws and ocean health and an interruption of the ambiance,” said Assemblyman Devon Mathis, R-Visalia (Tulare County). “Let’s look at education for cleaning up the ocean and stuff.”
The bill has been significantly watered down since it was introduced in January, when it called for waiters to face up to a $1,000 fine and six months in jail for handing out straws without being asked first. Those penalties were quickly removed from the bill and replaced with two warnings, followed by a $25-per-day fine to the restaurant, capping at $300 a year.
Plastic straws and stirrers are the sixth-most-common type of litter on state beaches, according to logs from the California Coastal Commission’s annual coastal cleanup days, which list the types of trash found. Between 1989 and 2014, the cleanups yielded 736,000 straws and stirrers.
Some cities have already created policies requiring that straws be handed out only on request.
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance last month prohibiting restaurants, bars and retailers in the city from giving customers plastic straws, stirrers or toothpicks beginning July 1, 2019. The measure is pending approval by Mayor London Breed.
Brown has until Sept. 30 to sign or veto the state’s straw bill.
Among the bills also sent to Brown Thursday was AB2343 by Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, which would extend the amount of time tenants have to fight evictions. The bill would ensure that weekend days and holidays do not count in the time allowed tenants to respond to an eviction notice. Instead, renters have three court days to pay rent after receiving an eviction notice and five court days to respond to an eviction lawsuit.
“Tenants in California are facing unprecedented hardships and constantly living under the threat of eviction,” Chiu said. “A few extra days can be the difference between staying in their home or becoming homeless.”
The Legislature also approved a bill that would prohibit for-profit corporations from managing or operating charter schools in California. Under AB406 by Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, for-profit businesses would be barred from running charter schools beginning July 1, 2019. Currently, 34 charter schools with 25,000 students are run by for-profit corporations in the state.
“The privatization of public education must end,” McCarty said.