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Santa Barbara City explains jail time controversy over potential plastic straw ban

Just a couple days after the July 17 vote by Santa Barbara City Council to approve an ordinance to ban single-use plastic straws and stirrers moved on to the next phase in local government, articles about possible jail time for employees handing out plastic straws in the city started popping up on the internet.

“The city of Santa Barbara has passed an ordinance that will allow restaurant employees to be punished with up to six months of jail time or a $1,000 fine for giving plastic straws to their customers,” said Katherine Timpf for the National Review.

Santa Barbara’s Environmental Servies Outreach Coordinator, Bryan Latchford, says that the city’s municipal code is written to allow for escalating levels of enforcement and that jail time or a hefty fine would be the last line of defense.

“Jail time or stiff fines are not the intent for first-time offenders,” said Latchford.

In a telephone interview with NewsChannel 3, Latchford said it would be very hard for an employee to see jail time or a $1,000 fine with the new ordinance. He says the City’s recycling team uses education as the first line of compliance with all trash and recycling programs.

“Rarely do we need to issue warning notices, much less administrative fines for infractions,” said Latchford.

Another internet article says plastic straw bans do not take into account people with disabilities.

“This ordinance is ridiculous on so many levels, but it’s downright offensive to people with disabilities,” said Karin Willison with The Mighty.

Latchford says the ordinance complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“The ordinance brought forward to the City Council exempts food or beverage providers from this ordinance in the instance that they provide, distribute, or sell a plastic beverage straw to a person for whom non-plastic alternatives are unsuitable due to a mental or physical condition,” said Latchford.

Other exemptions include products with plastic straws prepackaged outside the City and then sold within the City, providers with financial hardship, and public health and safety exemptions.

On June 24, the City Council moved to bring this ordinance back to the Ordinance Committee for further revisions before final adoption.

This ordinance will become operative at 2:01 a.m. on January 1, 2019, pending final approval by City Council..

For some brief information on the plastic straw ban provided by the City, click here.

To read the official municipal code on penalties and enforcement, click here.

To read the ordinance to regulate polystyrene food containers and products, click here.

To read the ordinance to regulate plastic straws, stirrers, and cutlery, click here.

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