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The late emergence of the Bottle Bill this session sparked hope among myself and others that we could make an effort to save the remaining redemption centers and even expand the locations to return cans on which you have paid the deposit. The Senate bill brought all the industry groups together and addressed the handling fee, got dirty cans out of our food retailers, and modernized language to allow mobile redemption systems to make it even easier and less expensive for redemption centers to expand.

We had a few setbacks this week. After the Senate sent our bill over to the House I began speaking to the House members about differences of opinion in how to best save the bottle bill. Different sections of the bill would be compared, and we were starting to understand the other chamber’s perspective. That changed when something changed in the House and suddenly they had decided to run their version without an agreement that we would accept the more complicated ideas.

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The Senate bill was designed to be as simple and clear as possible. This was both to make it easy to explain and administer. We streamlined who would enforce provisions and provide specific computer support. We set a simple standard as to when retailers would be required to take cans and when they could stop. We made it easy to set up a mobile redemption system and get more locations quickly.

The now-passed House bill takes a few points, such as a three-cent handling fee and mobile redemption language, but it complicates the retail redemption by retaining the old system of a retail store having to take cans unless they are within a number of miles of a redemption center. Iowa counties are divided between large and small counties, making a difference in stores having to be either ten or fifteen miles from a redemption center to be excluded from redeeming cans.

Worse, other retailers are exempted if they have a certified “Certified Food Safety Specialist.” It is another complicated system the private sector and Iowa Dept. of Natural Resources will have to work through.

The worst part of the process is, that while talks were progressing, suddenly a deadline was imposed by the House. In the course of an afternoon, an amendment replacing the language in the Senate bill was offered and adopted.

Procedurally, I’m afraid this action may lock everyone into difficult to bridge positions. I’m guessing this decision was made in the Speaker’s office, as the House bill manager had been open to conversation.

It is common for one chamber to want to put their fingerprints on a popular subject when a bill is received from the other chamber, but adding complications and short-circuiting productive negotiations is rare. As we move toward the last weeks of session, the bottle bill will be added to the list of end-of-session bills that often get tabled and must be refiled next year. If so, I would pursue a different strategy to try to keep the whole bill from being held hostage for one or two sections.

Author: Jason Schultz

State Sen. Jason Schultz served three terms in the House prior to being elected to the Iowa Senate. Schultz served seven years in the National Guard and served as volunteer fire fighter for the Schleswig Volunteer FD for 13 years, two years as the department's chief.

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