A measure to ban plastic carryout bags in supermarkets, drug and convenience stores was defeated late Tuesday in the state Senate, where key lawmakers said it could prove too costly for consumers.
The proposal to make California the first state to institute such a ban was designed to go into effect in large stores in 2012 and smaller stores in 2013.
By July 2012, big stores would be allowed to charge customers, at cost only, for recycled paper bags.
Lawmakers debated the bill as they worked toward a midnight deadline. The measure received just 14 votes, with 20 opposed.
Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, said the refuse from 19 billion plastic bags a year make the bill a concept whose "time has come."
But Sen. Lois Wolk, a Davis Democrat with a strong environmental voting record, told The Bee she would not support the measure on the floor.
"I prefer that we begin with incentives, and if that doesn't work, move to mandates," she said. "This is a windfall for the retailers."
Wolk said recycled grocery bags cost 6 to 10 cents each, a cost now absorbed by grocers that they would pass on to consumers if the legislation passed.
The author of AB 1998 was Julia Brownley, D-Santa Monica, who mustered environmental groups and Hollywood star power to back her proposal and win approval in the state Assembly.
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