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Senate resists pressure to bag freedom of choice when you shop
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Californians still have the freedom to choose between paper and plastic.

The California Senate bagged the ban on plastic bags on Aug. 31 on a bipartisan 21 to 14 vote. The measure failed despite backing from leaders on both sides of the aisle in the Assembly and Senate, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, labor, and the grocery industry.

The Assembly had previously blessed the bill that would have outlawed plastic bags from grocery stores, convenience stores, and drug stores.

As a side note, the California Grocers Association jumped on board only after backers agreed that all stores that sold groceries would face the plastic bag prohibition and not just grocery stores per se. The association also prefers having one statewide rule instead of different rules in various local jurisdictions. There are 20 municipalities that have considered banning plastic including San Francisco whose leaders have vowed to go ahead and try and outlaw plastic bags in The City.

Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, D- Santa Monica, who authored the bill, contends it costs Californians $25 million a year through garbage rate charges to bury plastic bags in landfills.

Environmentalists made the same point with plastic that they have with everything from Styrofoam to disposable diapers: Plastic bags get into our waterways and can become deadly for fish and fowl.

The plastic bag ban was one of those "gee-it's-a-good-cause" laws that are on the edge of an extremely slippery slope. Obviously anything that is disposable and doesn't break down rapidly poses a problem to the environment, is costly to bury, and can simply be unsightly when tossed about as litter. And just like Styrofoam and disposal diapers, recycling isn't all of that a viable option.

So why not just outlaw any disposal item such as any form of packaging that doesn't decompose quickly whether it is that plastic bubble wrap people love to pop or the Styrofoam packing peanuts used to pack things? Why not just wrap items in newspapers and wad up paper to provide a cushion to ship fragile items?

There needs to be a reasonable limit to government. Each year good meaning people keep coming up with new proposed laws that essentially are slowly turning us into wards of the state in terms of running our day-to-day lives.

Personally, I don't use plastic - or any type of non-reusable bag - unless I can't absolutely help it. If the purchase is small enough I simply carry it out with the receipt.

I have used reusable grocery bags at Save Mart for the past 30 months. Given the fact I use four each week and get credited a nickel apiece I have paid for them within a year. So far I'm $15 ahead of the game. I also like the idea that my groceries don't tumble all around, the bag doesn't break, and my groceries are extremely manageable to carry - something that simply doesn't happen too often with plastic bags.

I also like the fact I can pack everything I get each week - which is usually the same stuff - in four bags instead of between eight and a dozen plastic bags depending upon the courtesy clerk doing the bagging.

But what works for me may not work for other people.

Some, especially older people, find it easier to carry multiple plastic bags from their car to their house.

Then there are those who use the plastic bags for garbage to avoid buying plastic garbage bags.

As with most recycling, using reusable shopping bags ultimately saves you money.

It makes much more sense to get compliance through education about financial and other savings than to force one solution on all people.

That way we can conserve the freedom to make individual choices instead of burying personal liberties in the name of complying with what the state deems is best for us.