California could become the first state in the nation to ban plastic shopping bags, a move that has the support of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The Assembly passed the bill on Wednesday and it's now before the Senate.
Schwarzenegger issued a statement after the Assembly vote, saying, "This bill will be a great victory for our environment."
The legislation would prohibit pharmacies, groceries and liquor and convenience stores from giving out plastic bags and require alternative retainers for goods.
Stores would be required to sell paper bags for at least 5 cents each.
"Under this bill, if shoppers forget their reusable bags, they will be able to purchase a recycled paper bag made of 40 percent post-consumer material for a reasonable cost," Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, D-Santa Monica, told NBC affiliate KNTV.
Other towns and cities across the U.S. have already placed restrictions on plastic bags, including an outright ban in larger retail stores by three counties in North Carolina's Outer Banks. About 20 other California cities are considering similar laws.
Plastics bags are not biodegradable, meaning they stay for a long time in landfills and oceans. The goal is to reduce their accumulation.
In 2007, Annapolis, Md., was the first U.S. city to propose a total ban on plastic checkout bags when then-Alderman Sam Shropshire waged a campaign against them. While Maryland's bag campaign failed, it fueled efforts in other cities.
“We hope California can show other states that this is doable. We think this bill can be a model for other states to follow,” Gina Goodhill told the San Diego Tribune in an earlier interview. She specializes in oceans for the Los Angeles-based Environment California.