News Column

LA's Latino Senators Divided on Banning Plastic Bags

June 11, 2013

Think Latino Democratic lawmakers from Los Angeles vote the same way on key bills?

Think again.

Case in point: the recent defeat of a plastic shopping bag ban.

The bill, by Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima), died after fellow Latinos voted it down on the Senate floor.

SB 405 would have prohibited supermarkets and superstores from handing out plastic bags after Jan. 1. Convenience stores and smaller outlets had a later deadline.

Padilla said that the bags cause litter, foul up sorting machines and harm wildlife. He had support from environmentalists, local governments and legislators from coastal areas.

Opponents -- plastics companies, small businesses and senators from southeast Los Angeles County and Orange County -- countered that a bag ban would kill jobs at a handful of California plastic bag manufacturers.

The legislation didn't take into consideration "those hard-working families that may not live on the coast, that may not live in Northern California," said Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens). "They may live in communities like Cudahy, Bell Gardens, Lynwood, South Gate, Commerce and Montebello that depend on these jobs to feed their families."

Democratic Sens. Lou Correa of Santa Ana, Ron Calderon of Montebello, Norma Torres of Pomona and Kevin de Leon of Los Angeles made similar speeches.

Padilla, who represents the San Fernando Valley, bristled at the implication that he didn't care about working-class people.

"My district may not be Cudahy, but it's not that different," he said. "Believe me when I tell you the impact on working families, the working poor, the unemployed and the underemployed is not lost of me."

He accused his colleagues of voting for the status quo to help a few plastic-bag makers, which already are shifting production to reusable bags in response to local ordinances restricting single-use plastic bags.

The upshot, said Jaime Regalado, political science professor emeritus at Cal State Los Angeles: "There never was a solid, singular, homogenous block of Latino leaders or voters."

Snoopy plates

Californians can buy one of about a dozen special-interest license plates.

They can boost the arts, the coast, Lake Tahoe, Yosemite and the Olympics, among other causes.

If Assemblywoman Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) has her way, "Peanuts" comic fans could get Snoopy on their cars. Her bill, AB 482, passed the Assembly 57 to 19 and is in the Senate.

Revenue from the sale of the plates at $50 each would pay for improvements to museums and other cultural sites.

Safer drugs

Pharmacists put together different medicines, called compounded drugs, for patients who have specialized needs, such as liquefying some to make them easier to swallow. Such drugs are sold in bulk to hospitals and other healthcare organizations.

But the state pharmacy board has limited power to ensure that out-of-state pharmacies make safe drug compounds.

The problem turned deadly last year after a Massachusetts pharmacy sent contaminated steroid solution to 23 states, including California. In all, 39 people died, none in California.

Lawmakers are not taking any chances. The Assembly sent to the Senate a bill that would revoke the license of an out-of-state pharmacy to sell in California after it is linked to contaminated drugs. The bill also would require such a pharmacy to notify California officials quickly about recalls.

The bill, AB 1045, "would literally save lives," said its author, Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva (D-Fullerton).

Source: (c)2013 the Los Angeles Times. Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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