Debra J. Saunders
On his official website, San Francisco Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi starts his list of accomplishments with this item: "Plastic Bag Ban: First-in-the-Nation ban on plastic bags in chain grocery stores and drug stores, which sparked similar legislation around the world from Oakland to Canada to Paris to Beijing." In his final month as supervisor before he becomes sheriff, Mirkarimi wants to expand the ban so that it applies to all stores and requires retailers to charge customers for bags at the checkout counter.

"First in the nation" is rarely a good thing for a law. First, it means the measure is liberal. (Conservatives don't brag that their proposed laws are an experiment.) Second, its target is virgin territory probably because there's been no need for a law. Third, the measure may cost someone else his job and surely will be paid out of your pocket.

Exhibit A: San Francisco's groundbreaking Happy Meal law. McDonald's got around the ordinance that banned free toys with meals that don't meet City Hall's nutritional standards by announcing it will charge customers an extra 10 cents if they want a toy with the food.

Exhibit B: The Mirkarimi plan. Supervisors will vote on Plastic Bag 2.0 this month. It would come with a mandatory charge of at least 10 cents per bag starting July 1, possibly rising to 25 cents in 2014. Retailers would get to keep your dimes.

Mirkarimi told me that San Francisco no longer is in the lead when it comes to bag laws. Other governments -- Ireland, Beijing, Marin County -- that followed Ess Eff's lead are "now blowing by us. Their laws are much more vigorous."

Single-use bags don't just end up in landfills and wetlands; they litter streets and become a "nuisance" and "blight." Science is on his side, Mirkarimi told me; it takes 500 years for plastic bags to disintegrate. (How does anyone know it takes 500 years for a bag to disintegrate?)

Mayor Ed Lee told KCBS' Barbara Taylor that he supports the measure because it probably would "modify behavior." Spokeswoman Christine Falvey walked that position back with an email that said Lee supports "the goal of the legislation and incentivizing consumers to bring their own bags." He will weigh in later.

Mirkarimi argued, "You've got to deal with the hidden costs of pollution that were never factored in (to) the retail point of purchase."

This is how City Hall sees the bag bill playing out: Thanks to enlightened San Francisco politicians, shoppers begin to take reusable bags wherever they go. Bad consumers pay for their own bags. Good consumers no longer have to subsidize bad consumers.

Debra J. Saunders

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