Plastic bag manufacturers and other opponents of a statewide ban on plastic bags have qualified a referendum for the November 2016 ballot, thereby putting the ban on hold, the California Secretary of State’s office said Tuesday.

The trade group American Progressive Bag Alliance of Washington, D.C., had in December submitted more than 800,000 signatures to Secretary of State Alex Padilla to place the referendum on the ballot, with the intent to campaign against the measure.

After random sampling to verify the signatures, Padilla’s office said on Tuesday that it had concluded there were more than the required 504,760 signatures to put the measure on the ballot.

With the referendum qualified, the ban, which was passed by the Legislature last year and signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown, is now on hold until the November 2016 election. Besides banning most plastic grocery bags (except for the smaller bags used for fruit and vegetables), the law has allowed grocery stores to charge 10 cents for each paper bag they dispense.

Los Angeles and several other local cities have enacted their own plastic bag bans with similar provisions; this referendum does not apply to those bans.

Reacting to the news of the referendum qualifying for the ballot, local plastic bag manufacturer Crown Poly Inc. of Huntington Park said in a statement: “This state law to ban plastic bags is a disingenuous maneuver to have consumers bear far more than the actual cost of a … bag, and to force consumers to pay for a store supply that was provided for years, for free.”

Crown Poly spokeswoman Cathy Browne continued in the statement, “We believe consumers should have a choice of what bag they want to use: reusable, plastic or paper… Municipalities don’t save on their litter budgets when they ban plastic bags, as plastic bags comprise approximately 0.5 percent of the waste stream. The reasons that legislators cite to ban plastic bags are just not true – it is a pure profit motive that is driving this issue.”

Bag-ban supporters criticized the referendum.

“This attempt to hijack California’s political process and attempt to repeal a law enacted by the Legislature, signed by the governor, and supported by wide margins of Californians by out-of-state corporations is simply outrageous,” said Mark Murray of California vs. Big Plastic, the committee opposing the repeal.

“Californians have a long tradition of rejecting special interest ballot measures bankrolled by out-of-state corporations,” Murray said in his statement. “We are confident they will do the same in November 2016.”

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