116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
DES MOINES — After years of debating, negotiating and rejecting proposals to change the state’s 44-year-old bottle bill, lawmakers are on the cusp of approving major modifications to how — and where — Iowans redeem their beer and soda cans and bottles.
“It has taken a while to get to this moment,” Rep. Brian Lohse, R-Bondurant, said Tuesday afternoon.
“I understand there's a little angst that perhaps we're going to try this and it's going to fail,” he said, acknowledging Senate File 2378 wasn’t everything that Iowa House members wanted or hoped for. “At some point, we got to have a little faith.”
By a 70-14 margin, the House approved the bill that includes changes the Iowa Senate will have to agree to before SF 2378 goes to the governor to be signed into law.
In addition to raising the handling fee from 1 to 3 cents per container and letting retailers that meet certain condition opt out, Lohse explained SF 2378 increases enforcement through the Iowa Attorney General’s Office, offers distributors a 1-cent credit against their taxes for each container they handle and increases legislative oversight.
The bill, he said, is a bipartisan attempt to address long-standing issues with the bottle deposit law “to make the system sustainable for consumers into the future.”
However, others said consumers are being ignored.
“While I know reforms were needed, I fear the reforms being proposed today will make it more difficult for Iowa consumers,” said Rep. Mary Mascher, D-Iowa City.
Supporters talked about what grocers, distributors and redemption centers want, “but what I have not heard is what the consumers want.” Reducing convenience by letting retailers opt out will reduce the success of the bottle bill, Mascher said.
Even supporters had their reservations. As a restaurant owner and a consumer, Rep. Shannon Lundgren, R-Peosta, had difficulty embracing all of the changes. Her concern has been ensuring that consumers in her rural district have a place to return their empties to get their 5-cent per container deposit returned.
“If it were up to me, we'd be repealing this law today,” Lundgren said. “So I think that anything that we're doing that allows an option for our consumers and our constituents to return their cans is a good move forward.”
Rep. Amy Nielsen, D-North Liberty, who worked on the bill with Lundgren and Lohse, agreed critics had valid points.
“But it's been a great collaboration and I really feel that we have come up with some good things in this bill,” she said.
Raising the handling may lead to more redemption centers, and opening up opportunities for mobile redemption centers in convenient locations, including grocery store parking lots, are positive changes, Nelsen said.
And, unlike the Senate version, the House did not include a sunset provision “because the public does like the bottle bill, overwhelmingly supports the bottle bill,” Nielsen said.
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