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Reynolds OK’s changes to Iowa’s recycling law

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BOTTLE BILL

Major changes are coming to Iowa's law regarding the recycling of beverage containers.

DES MOINES — Major changes to Iowa’s deposit recycling law are coming.

Whether those changes will sustain the program for the long-term or kill it depends on which political party’s lawmakers you believe.

Gov. Kim Reynolds on Friday signed into law the so-called bottle bill, the nickname for legislators’ annual attempt to make changes to the 44-year-old program designed to encourage Iowans to recycle beverage containers.

Under Iowa’s recycling program, consumers pay a 5-cent deposit on most plastic and aluminum beer and soda containers. They can recoup that nickel by returning empty containers to redemption centers or retailers.

The changes to the law allows more grocery stores to leave the program, sending their empties instead to redemption centers.

The changes attempt to boost the number of redemption centers by tripling a fee paid by beverage distributors to the redemption centers. The hope is that the increased funding will increase the number of redemption centers, including mobile and automated units.

Beth Mackenzie, president of the Iowa Recycling Association in Cedar Rapids, said the changes do some good things but also give her cause for concern.

“Increasing the handling fee to three cents is an important first step, but much of the bill misses the mark,” Mackenzie said in a statement.

“Because of the broad carve-outs for retailers in this bill,” she said, “it is likely hundreds of retail locations will immediately halt their redemption services, making it tremendously inconvenient for many Iowans to retrieve the deposits those same retailers conveniently collect.”

Mackenzie added, “I hope the increased handling fee is enough to support our existing redemption centers and entice people to open new redemption centers.

“And even though many retailers will have the option to stop taking back bottles and cans, I hope they choose to keep their redemption services in place so their customers, and all Iowans, have a convenient opportunity to get their nickels back.”

Senate File 2378 was approved by the Legislature on mostly party-line votes, with Republicans supporting and Democrats opposing.

“I think if you triple the amount of money that goes into a certain sector, whether it’s cotton candy or a gun shop or a luxury car dealership, you’re going to get more of them,” Sen. Jason Schultz, a Republican from Schleswig, said during legislative debate on the proposal in March.

Sen. Herman Quirmbach, a Democrat from Ames, was not so optimistic.

“If this bill passes, it kills the bottle bill, a policy which has been wildly popular and quite successful for four decades,” Quirmbach said.

Bill vetoes

Reynolds vetoed her first piece of legislation from the 2022 legislative session, striking down a proposed change to district court judicial nominating commissions.

Republican legislators inserted into House File 2558, the judicial branch’s budget bill, a proposal to remove the requirement that each judicial district’s most tenured judge serve as chairman of the commission that vets and recommends candidates for judge openings. The change would have allowed those judges to remain on the commission and be eligible to serve as chairman.

Reynolds vetoed the proposal, saying commission members would feel obligated to elect the most tenured judges as chairman.

Reynolds and Republican state legislators have called for changes to district judicial nominating commissions after a northern Iowa judge was found to have acted improperly during the process of recommending new judges for gubernatorial appointment.

“(The vetoed proposal) does not resolve these serious concerns about the undue influence of judges on district court commissions. And I am unconvinced that (the proposal) would lead to any meaningful change,” Reynolds said in a letter to the Iowa Secretary of State that accompanied her veto.

Reynolds also signed into law Friday:

  • Senate File 2367, which eliminates the state sales tax on feminine hygiene products and diapers.
  • House File 2496, which provides protections to law enforcement officers who have been or may be placed on a so-called Brady-Giglio list, which is a list of law enforcement officers who committed misconduct that raises questions about their credibility, such as lying, committing a crime, showing racial bias, or excessive force.
  • A series of budget bills, including those that fund the state agriculture department, the state education department and Board of Regents, the state justice system, the state transportation department, state infrastructure spending, the state economic development department, and the state’s administration and regulation agencies.
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