Governor Chet Culver’s call for a change in Iowa’s bottle deposit law is getting a tepid response from lawmakers, even from folks in his own party.
House Speaker Pat Murphy, a Democrat from Dubuque, says it would be an “uphill battle” for lawmakers to double the deposit on cans and bottles to ten cents a piece and expand the fee to other types of containers — like those that contain water, sports drinks or tea.
“It’s pretty hard to get a consensus as to what we can do,” Murphy says. On Tuesday, Governor Culver dedicated a portion of his “condition of the state” message to explaining his idea of raising the state’s can and bottle deposit fee by a nickel. Some legislators applauded.
His Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge among just a handful of people who stood and applauded to support the move. “I believe this is the right thing to do,” Culver said during his speech. “That’s why I am committed to working with legislators, grocers, retailers, redemption centers, environmental groups, conservation groups and consumers to get the bill to my desk as soon as possible.”
Murphy, the top Democrat in the Iowa House, says Culver’s in for a long wait. “One thing I’ve learned in the legislature is never say never, but I definitely think this is an uphill climb,” Murphy told reporters. Murphy wasn’t optimistic any changes to the bottle bill will be embraced by the Iowa House.
“It’s looking at the details and understanding what can and can’t be done and what you can get 51 votes here for,” Murphy said. Senate Republican Leader Ron Wieck of Sioux City suggests Republicans aren’t ready to back Culver’s proposal.
“That’s just more on the back of Iowans. I mean, we’re talking about Iowans having to spend more money at the grocery store,” Wieck says. “I’m on for cleaning up our roads and doing the things we need to do, but the reality of dumping more fees…on the back of Iowa’s families is not the answer to it.”
Iowa’s so-called “bottle bill” is 30 years old. The five-cent deposit law often is credited with keeping Iowa’s roadways free of empty cans and bottles.