Santa Barbara, CA Talking Single-Use Bag Tax

Santa Barbara Single-Use Bag TaxSanta Barbara, California is a city of approximately 90,000 people.  It is located along the southern coast of California.  Since the 1960’s, Santa Barbara has been known as the “American Riviera” because its climate so closely resembles a Mediterranean climate.

For the past three years, on several occasions, the Santa Barbara City Council and Solid Waste Committee have discussed the environmental impact of single-use bags.  The Solid Waste Committee has now recommended that the Council conduct a voter survey about a possible tax on single-use bags (plastic and paper).  The survey would also determine the amount of tax that voters would be willing to pay.

A comprehensive voluntary project, called “Where’s Your Bag?” campaign was launched last year in the city.  The program is a cooperative effort between the City of Santa Barbara, local grocery stores and community organizations.  The goals of the project are:

1)      Reduce the use of single-use bags (plastic and paper)

2)       Educate the citizens about the negative environmental effects of single-use bags

3)      Encourage shoppers to use reusable bags

On March 30, 2010, the City Council will decide if they want to implement the voter survey.  There has been some discussion of a referendum to let the voters decide if they want a single-use bag tax, rather than paying a firm to conduct the survey, in which the cost would come from the City budget.

If the City Council votes to implement the survey, the contract would go to a firm very experienced in conducting public surveys.  Fairbanks, Maslin, Maullin, Metz and Associates (abbreviated FM3) has done prior work for the City.

FM3 has a distinguished and noteworthy client list.  Practically every state, regional and local government in California is in lockstep to use their services along with many notable environmental and conservation organizations.  FM3’s efforts have played a pivotal role in many local elections, helping to pass several key measures around the state of California.

Once the survey is completed, if the City decides to implement a bag tax, they would have to meet the requirements of CEQA.  CEQA is the California Environmental Quality Act.  However, the tax could be accomplished through a voter initiative, which would be exempt from CEQA requirements.

It will be interesting to see what the Santa Barbara City Council decides.

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