DES MOINES — Legislation to replace Iowa’s bottle bill and expand recycling efforts was narrowly approved Wednesday ahead of a legislative deadline, but the sponsor said it will go no further this year.
Winning approval of the bill to end nickel deposits on beer and pop containers, create a $60 million fund for recycling efforts and another fund for litter control is a two-year effort “or longer,” said House Environmental Protection Committee Chairman Ross Paustian, R-Walcott.
The bill moved out of committee on an 11-10 vote with one Republican and nine Democrats, including some who said they like the general direction of the bill, voting against House Study Bill 163.
Paustian called the outcome a good beginning and promised it won’t be the end of efforts, largely fueled by support of grocers, convenience stores and the beverage industry, to replace the 39-year-old bottle bill.
In response to committee questions, Paustian said he has told interested parties the bill won’t become law this year.
“We’re not rushing it. We’re going to take time and get this right,” he said, adding that he has to persuade members of the GOP caucus to support the bill.
However, Democrats complained he had rushed the legislation through subcommittee and committee to beat Friday’s deadline for bills to win committee approval in order to be eligible for floor debate. That wasn’t necessary if he doesn’t intend to debate the bill this year, said Rep. Vicki Lensing, D-Iowa City.
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“This is a paradigm shift ... huge,” she said, noting that she has worked on bottle bill legislation since being elected to the House 17 years ago. “Something this big — and this is big — should have had all the stakeholders at the table.”
The stakeholders who were involved seemed resigned to bottle bill changes being a multiyear effort.
“It’s a work in progress and we feel like it is a great starting point for discussion to provide a more comprehensive, sustainable plan for Iowans,” said Michelle Hurd of the Iowa Grocery Association. “If not this year, we’ll just continue the conversation, educating Iowans and legislators and keeping the process going.”
Rep. Ako Abdul-Samad, D-Des Moines, wondered whether the $60 million recycling fund would be diverted to other purposes.
Said Paustian: “It will be there for recycling or I will be walking away from (the bill). I’m giving you my word.”
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