California 2016 Election Results: Propositions 65 And 67: Lawmaker’s Ponzi Scheme Backfires To The Benefit Of Grocers And Consumers

The Califonia 2016 election results for president were not surprising. Hillary Clinton had no trouble defeating Donald Trump in the longtime Democratic stronghold. Clinton received 61 percent of the vote to Trump’s 33 percent.

Another result that was entirely expected was that a Democrat would be elected to take over for retiring senator, Barbara Boxer. What was unexpected in that race was that California would have two Democratic nominees on the ticket while the Republican candidate, Duf Sundheim, was excluded from the ballot. There was also not a write-in selection for senatorial choice even though other positions on the ticket included write-in blanks.

It was even expected that Proposition 64, which would legalize marijuana for recreational use, would pass. The only surprising thing about Proposition 64 passing is that it took so long. While California was the first state to legalize medical weed in 1991, Colorado and Washington were the first states to pass legalization initiatives regarding recreational use in 2012. Two years later Alaska and Oregon passed recreational use ballot measures. Last night, California along with Massachusetts and Nevada legalized pot for recreational use.

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Most of the 2016 California election results were predictable, but there were a couple of measures that did not get a lot of publicity, and it was not certain how the voting would turn out.

Proposition 65 and 67 were, at least for all appearances, written together and put on the ballot out of order and with a measure between them in an attempt to confuse voters in the hopes that the measures would pass and fill state coffers. For this scheme to work, both propositions had to pass.

Proposition 67 was the primary measure that needed to be passed because, without it, 65 would have no meaning. Proposition 67, also known as the Plastic Bag Ban Veto Referendum (2016), was intentionally worded in a confusing manner on the ballot.

“A ‘Yes’ vote approves, and a ‘No’ vote rejects, a statute that prohibits grocery and other stores from providing single-use plastic or paper carryout bags but permits the sale of recycled paper bags and reusable bags.”

According to Ballotpedia, the measure was contesting a previously enacted California statute. Senate Bill 270 banned plastic carryout bags from stores and mandated the sale of reusable bags. This measure was a good faith effort to improve California’s fight on litter. Californians were for this law, so why was it being contested? It was being contested because of Proposition 65.

Ballotpedia states that the Dedication of Revenue from Disposable Bag Sales to Wildlife Conservation Fund (2016), proposed by 65, looked to redirect “money collected from the sale of carry-out bags by grocery or other retail stores to a special fund administered by the Wildlife Conservation Board.”

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Simply put, California lawmakers wanted to take the money that stores made from the sale of reusable bags and hand it over to an agency that, like most other California bureaucracies, would turn around and waste the money. Even more confusing was how the results of the two propositions would be interpreted had they both passed.

“Approval of the measure (67) would uphold the ban on plastic grocery bags and allocate revenue from state-mandated charges on bags to grocers for covering costs and education. If both are approved, but Proposition 67 receives more ‘yes’ votes, this allocation provision would supersede Proposition 65’s allocation provision.”

Needless to say, Proposition 67 passed, but 65 was shot down.

The election results made sense. Californians had already agreed to purchase reusable bags instead of being allowed to have disposable bags for free. Environmentally conscious citizens concluded that it was better to have to pay for a reusable bag once in a while than to have to pay more taxes to clean up the mess made by disposable bags.

On the one hand, Californians chose to self-regulate their grocery bag usage, and the grocery stores made a little extra money from the increase in reusable bag sales, keeping their prices low. Lawmakers, on the other hand, saw this as a way to feed California big government. The arrogance of the proposition is typical of the California legislature.

“We are mandating you to buy the bags, so we deserve the money made from the sale of the bags, even though we are doing none of the work in manufacturing or selling said bags.”

Californians voiced their opinion on this matter clearly during Tuesday night’s election, but the importance of the rejection of this measure might be overlooked. Sure, Proposition 67 looked to veto the people’s choice of self-regulation, and sure, Proposition 65 looked to take profits from the grocers without any moral or ethical right to do so. So, of course, the people stood by their original decision and rejected the absurdity of Proposition 65, but it was a close race.

California election results on Propositions 65 and 67
Jack Mingo holds an armful of bags before entering a grocery store in Alameda, Calif. [Image by Eric Risberg/AP Images]

Apparently, people were confused enough about 65 that it almost passed. According to KQED, Proposition 65 lost by only five percent of the vote. This election night result is startling considering the consequences of the measure’s approval.

Had this proposition passed, Californians would have been looking at a substantial indirect tax every time they went grocery shopping. Nothing is ever “free.” The legislature seemed to be looking at reusable bag profits as a free source of state revenue. It also appears that nearly half the people in the state overlooked the fact that the loss of those profits would be passed on to the consumer. Approval of Proposition 65 would have had Californians paying for those reusable bags twice, once when they bought them, and once when they paid for their inflated grocery bills.

Californians might still see their grocery bills increase as the state continues raising corporate taxes to fund its out-of-control spending. However, just enough people saw that Proposition 65 was not much more than a Ponzi scheme targeting the consumer that they did not let it pass.

[Featured Image by John Shearer/Invision/AP Images]