The bill was discussed in an Iowa Senate subcommittee Wednesday. Senator Tom Shipley, a Republican from Nodaway, said his constituents have complained people are buying water with their benefits, pouring out the liquid in the parking lot and then taking the empty container back for the deposit money.
“A lot of people who work in stores have observed this happening, people just going to the store have observed this taking place and feel it’s an abuse of the system,” Shipley says.
Iowa’s nickel deposit law does not apply to water bottles, but retailers that sell the five-gallon containers of water used in water coolers often charge a deposit fee of up to $8. A spokeswoman for the Iowa Department of Human Services says in 2014, federal rules changed and anyone buying the huge bottles of water with food stamp benefits must pay the deposit fee with their own money.
Senator Shipley has tabled the bill that deals with the state’s nickel deposit fee and soda pop sales to welfare recipients. Senator Herman Quirmbach, a Democrat from Ames, compared the bill to former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg attempt to limit the size of sugary soft drinks sold in his city.
“Usually Republicans describe this kind of thing as ‘nanny state’ regulation,” Quirmbach said during the subcommittee meeting. “…The supposed water bottle problem has already been solved.”
The Iowa Grocers Association has “concerns” about a state ban on welfare recipients using their benefits to buy soda. The Iowa Beverage Association and Hy-Vee are opposed to the concept.