"The retailers shifted and went straight to paper, which really didn't solve the long-term goal, which is to move consumers to reusable bags," Heylen said.
In crafting the county ordinance, officials pointed to the success of the 5-cent-per-disposable-bag surcharge in Washington, D.C., which led to an 86% drop in disposable bags given to shoppers there.
But Christopher Gallo, 31, who runs a small store in an unincorporated area near Inglewood, feared his low-income customers would start buying less to avoid the county's 10-cent surcharge on paper bags.
"The 10 cents … it's just going to kill us," Gallo said.
The ordinance requires stores to provide paper or reusable bags free of charge to recipients of two state-run supplemental food programs.
The American Chemistry Council, a trade association whose members include plastic bag makers, warned the county last week that the proposed ban might be subject to Proposition 26. The initiative, which passed this month, reclassifies most regulatory fees on industry as "taxes" requiring a two-thirds vote in government bodies or in public referendums, rather than a simple majority.
County Counsel Andrea Ordin said Tuesday that the 10-cent surcharge on paper bags is not a fee covered by Proposition 26 because the revenue generated is retained by the grocers, not transferred to a government agency.