VMA has a long history advocating for its membership in the California legislature as well as Congress. Currently, we split the legislative job between two people, RJ Cervantes, our lobbyist in Sacramento, and Gerry Bonetto, our regulatory affairs expert. RJ is a traditional lobbyist; he meets with state legislators and attends committee meetings daily. We share the cost of his services with our PIASC as our interests are aligned. Gerry represents our members when they have sales tax and Environmental Health & Safety (EHS) issues, as well as writing articles for our newsletters and maintaining the Executive Toolbox website.
Senate Bill 324, the anti-direct mail bill introduced in February, was my introduction to the legislative process in California and working with RJ. This bill, if enacted, would have required our printers to print a phone number and QR code on every piece of direct mail sent in the state so individuals could opt-out. RJ did a great job setting strategy and then coordinating with other lobbyists representing the mail carriers to ultimately persuade the author of the bill to withdraw the legislation. Special credit goes to our chair Gil Cervantes, who was able to work behind the scenes with Alex Rooker, the Vice-Chair of the California Democratic Party. This was a big win for the association and our member printing companies as the bill has been withdrawn.
Our next legislative challenge relates to several bills in the state legislature and a qualified 2022 ballot initiative to tax and eventually phase out single-use packaging statewide. The initiative and related bills would create a new extended producer responsibility compliance regime for our printers and packaging companies. There are similar bills that have been introduced in other states. In California, Recology has spent $1M promoting this initiative and would receive most of the new taxes.
To respond to this challenge, RJ set the overall strategy and hosted a packaging legislation webinar for the three California affiliates in April with over 50 sign-ups. According to RJ, the likely outcome will be a compromise bill that will lead to the withdrawal of the ballot initiative. We plan on keeping a close eye on this legislation as the compliance and tax burden will most likely end up on our smaller family-owned companies and not the large, big brand companies.
There is also a bill in committee to eliminate private health insurance in California. This bill is very similar to previous legislation proposed a few years ago. The old bill died in the appropriations committee as a funding source does not exist for the $400B price tag. For this reason, this bill is likely to share the same fate.