116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
DES MOINES — Less than three weeks before the Legislature is scheduled to adjourn, lawmakers breathed new life into an attempt to change Iowa’s four-decade-old law that requires nickel deposits on pop and beer cans.
“A lot of work has gone into it this past year,” Rep. Shannon Lundgren, R-Peosta, said Wednesday as she asked the House Ways and Means Committee to “continue to move this forward” despite an acknowledgment time is running out on efforts modify what’s come to be known as the “bottle bill.”
Although they also support changes in the deposit law, the committee’s Democrats opposed House File 814 and Rep. Dave Jacoby, D-Coralville, called for a public hearing “to make sure the public, the consumers, have some input” before the full House acts on the bill.
The outlook for action is not great. Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, recently said that despite progress made by bottle bill stakeholders, “it will be difficult to wrap that up in the next three weeks.” The Legislature is scheduled to adjourn April 30, but that is not a hard deadline.
Proposals to change the bottle bill that pop up every session give the debate a “Groundhog Day” feel, Whitver said on Iowa PBS’ “Iowa Press” last weekend.
“Well, today is Groundhog Day for us,” Rep. Chuck Isenhart, D-Dubuque, told the committee. He opposed the bill as written, he said, because he expects Lundgren to offer a striking amendment making significant changes to the bill. He would like to see that amendment before a public hearing and floor debate “so we’re not spending our time chasing butterflies down dark alleys.”
Lundgren said the amendment may be available later this week.
Under the current bottle bill, when a consumer returns a container, the retailer returns the nickel deposit to them. When distributors collect the containers from retailers and redemption centers, they pay a nickel plus a 1-cent handling fee.
If enacted, HF 814 would allow retailers to choose not to accept containers if they have a contract with a redemption center, for example, that will accept the cans and bottles. However, that arrangement is possible if the retailer is in a county of more than 30,000 people and within 10 miles of a redemption center or in a county of fewer than 30,000 and within 15 miles of a redemption center.
An Isenhart amendment to double the handling fee paid to redemption centers to 2 cents and reduce the convenience standard to 5 and 10 miles was rejected on a party-line vote.
Lundgren said both changes are under consideration.
The bill would allow a person to establish a redemption center by providing notice to the Department of Natural Resources. It also creates civil enforcement procedures and penalties for a violation of the bill, including a civil penalty of up to $2,500. It would take effect July 1, 2023.
HF 814 was approved on a party-line vote, making it eligible for consideration by the full House.
There is no companion bill in the Senate, but Senate File 470 is in the Ways and Means Committee there.
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