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Efforts to stop plastic pollution may forge ahead despite COVID-19 legislative shutdown

Normally this would be an exceptionally busy time of year for California lawmakers, but with the state still largely sheltering-in-place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all hearings and legislative meetings have been canceled till May 4

What does an abbreviated legislative session during the time of a massive public health crisis mean for the more than 2,200 laws originally proposed for consideration this year? Well, what we’ve consistently heard – and what was reinforced in a message from Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, who chairs the Assembly Appropriation Committee, to her committee members, is that the majority of the bills proposed are expected to be pulled by their authors

Because any legislation that’s expected to cost the state money must pass through the Appropriation committee, Gonzalez’s message is a very clear signal to her colleagues that they need to evaluate priorities very, very carefully. The prevailing understanding is that any legislation that does pass will related to coronavirus response plans, efforts to address homelessness and housing, and wildfire prevention proposals.

However, that does not mean every bill we’d looked forward to supporting is out of luck! While everything is changing day by day, sometimes hour by hour, we’re expecting a few critical coastal bills to move forward.

One of those is AB 1672 by Assemblymember Richard Bloom out of Santa Monica. AB 1672 would require the makers of disposable wipes to put a label on packages saying they should not be flushed – the flushing of these wipes have already cost California cities and other government agencies a combined $50 million a year or more because they aren’t actually flushable, which means when people flush them, workers end up having to untangle pumps, clear blocked sewer mains and increase maintenance to remove them at wastewater plants. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, that problem has only worsened.

We’ve also been in touch with staff from Senator Ben Allen’s office and Asm Lorena Gonzalez’s office about SB 54 and AB 1080, a pair of bills known as the California Circular Economy and Pollution Reduction Act. Surfrider has been pushing for the passing of these bills since the last session and have been assured that efforts are continuing to see them through. 

We'll keep everyone posted about upcoming actions and further developments. In the meantime, we wish everyone in the Surfrider network good health and self-care, encourage you to #StayHomeShredLater, offer you tips for making your home ocean friendly and look forward to continued work protecting California's ocean, beaches and waves!