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House speaker says palatable Bottle Bill compromise still elusive

DES MOINES — A top Republican says there’s still a chance the Houses will vote this year to make changes in Iowa’s Bottle Bill, but House Speaker Pat Grassley says it’s “very difficult” to find a resolution.

“The same thing happens every time we even have these conversations is every group that’s involved goes into their corners and no one’s willing to move,” Grassley told reporters. “And so it just makes it really hard to not only find an agreement, but a bill that’s palatable to any caucus.”

Representative Bobby Kaufmann, a Republican from Wilton, has been involved in negotiations to reform the Bottle Bill.

“This has been a topic that’s been around for decades,” Kaufmann told Radio Iowa. “I think we’re as close as we’ve ever been, without saying we’re 100% there yet, to having support for passage in the House.”

For several years, grocers have asking legislators to end the requirement that grocers accept empty bottles and cans and repay the nickel deposits. This year Fareway hired two former Republican legislators as lobbyists to make that pitch. Former State Representative Chip Baltimore, who represented Boone in the House, calls the Bottle Bill a dinosaur.

“It was originally enacted as a litter control system, trying to clean up ditches, but since then it has simply turned into a trash collection system,” Baltimore said during a recent House subcommittee meeting. “…When you go to a restaurant and they give you a Styrofoam box to take your food home in, you don’t have to take your Styrofoam box back to the restaurant to allow them to recycle or redeem it.”

Former Senate Republican Leader Bill Dix is also lobbying for Fareway. Dix has publicly expressed support for an approach that would let grocers opt out of accepting the empties if a redemption center was within 20 miles of their store.

“This is conceptually a bill that Fareway is interested in seeing continue to move through the process,” Dix said earlier this year, “…with possible tweaks and changes to improve it along the way.”

That concept has stalled in the Senate. Earlier this month Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver said there is no single solution that has emerged with enough support to pass the Senate this year.

Early this morning after a brief meeting, a House subcommittee voted 2-1 to advance the Bottle Bill reform effort, with changes still being considered.

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