DES MOINES — Lawmakers expressed optimism Thursday this will be the year they reach an agreement to maintain Iowa’s popular bottle bill as well as address retailers’ safety and health concerns about handling dirty beverage containers in their stores.
But they’re not there yet.
The House Commerce Committee unanimously approved House Study Bill 709, “a shell bill to get us through funnel so we can sit down with all the parties and attempt to fix the issues that exist in the bottle deposit law,” Rep. Brian Lohse, R-Bondurant, said.
The “funnel” is the Friday deadline for bills to be approved by a House or Senate committee if they are to remain under consideration this session.
Lohse, a retailer who has “skin in the game,” was encouraged by a subcommittee discussion earlier in the week that brought together grocers, redemption centers, distributors and others.
Rep. Amy Nielsen, D-North Liberty, said the words she heard in that meeting were “compromise, work it out, everyone needs to give something, we’re not all going to get exactly what we want.”
“I think that’s what makes good legislation,” she said. Lawmakers and interested parties can find a solution where “not everybody’s happy, but everybody’s not mad.”
However, lobbyists seems less optimistic that the outcome will be different from previous years. Last year, both grocers and distributors said they went further in trying to find agreement than in previous years, but legislative leaders didn’t bring a bill to the floor in either the Senate or House.
As proposed, this year’s bill would require retailers to pay another half-cent on the estimated 2 billion pop and beer cans and bottle they buy from distributors.
That money would help cover increases in handling costs over the past 44 years. But some see that as a windfall for distributors that would keep those funds if containers are not redeemed.
Lohse remained hopeful a solution can be found “that makes everybody a little happy, a little sad … so we can put this to rest.”
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