CGA Op-Ed: Grocers just following the law in collecting new bag charges

Reprinted from The Modesto Bee (11/21/2016)

By Ron Fong, President & CEO, California Grocers Association

In his recent op-ed “Why Some Grocers Can’t Wait to Collect Bag Fee” (Page 11A, Nov. 15), Ralph E. Shaffer appears to use what he learned to gain his title of emeritus professor of history at Cal Poly Pomona as a way to legitimize falsehoods in an effort to undermine the recent passage of Proposition 67 – the referendum on the statewide ban of single-use plastic bags.

It seems ironic that an emeritus professor of history would have such a loose grip on the facts and historical record, as it pertains to our state constitution.

Shaffer begins by claiming that grocers up and down the state had wrongly determined that Proposition 67 was in effect because the election has yet to be certified by the secretary of state. He continues by condescending to the reader, saying “the grocers and a lot of other people mistakenly interpret that line in the state constitution that says initiatives take effect ‘the day after the election’ if they are successful.”

Let me pause to share what Article 2, Section 10 of the state constitution (that part of the constitution that Shaffer claims is mistakenly interpreted) states: “An initiative statute or referendum approved by a majority of votes thereon takes effect the day after the election unless the measure provides otherwise. If a referendum petition is filed against a part of a statute, the remainder shall not be delayed from going into effect.”

I suggest it is Shaffer who is mistakenly interpreting the constitution, while using cheap semantics to ask, “But what day is the day after the election?”

The election was on Nov. 8, making the day after the election Nov. 9. We must apply a concept used in the realm of law called the “plain meaning” rule. According to the rule, absent a contrary definition within the statute, words must be given their plain, ordinary and literal meaning.

Thus, the day after the election is literally the day after the election.

Shaffer attempts to undermine this plain meaning by suggesting the election results need to be certified before propositions can go into effect.

The history professor should brush up on his California history. While he is correct in that before 1970 the constitution did indeed stipulate an initiative or referendum did not take effect until “5 days after the date of the official declaration of the vote by the Secretary of State,” in 1970 voters approved Proposition 16, making changes to the constitution that replaced the delayed-effect language with the current “day after the election.”

The grocery industry prides itself on prompt and thorough compliance with all laws. It is something we owe to our customers for the trust they put in us as the people who help deliver food to their families. Proposition 67 is no different.

When we saw it received the most votes on the day after the election, we abided with the will of the people as well as our state constitution.

Shame on Shaffer for suggesting that our industry break the law by violating the state constitution. Perhaps he should also take a course in the history of the California Constitution.

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