Sen. Jason Schultz (photo from Iowa legislature)

A bill to make changes in Iowa’s “Bottle Bill” has made it farther in the Iowa legislature this year than any previous attempt to adjust the deposit and redemption system.

Senator Jason Schultz of Schleswig guided the bill through Senate debate today. “Ladies and gentlemen, I didn’t fully expect to get to this point where we’d be on the floor offering Iowans an opportunity to extend the life of what polling shows 83% of Iowans want it to survive either in its current form or expand it,” Schultz said.

Schultz and his fellow Republicans in the Iowa Senate have voted to let grocery stores in Iowa refuse bottle and can returns starting next summer. The bill would increase the handling fee for redemption centers from one cent to three cents of every nickel deposit on a beverage container. The wholesalers that distribute beer and pop to retailers would be able to keep unredeemed deposits.

Democrats in the Senate opposed the bill. There are only 60 redemption centers operating today and Senator Herman Quirmbach, a Democrat from Ames, said this plan will kill the Bottle Bill.

“We’re asked to believe in this mythology that somehow redemption centers will all of a sudden pop up across the countryside. I think that’s ridiculous,” Quirmbach said. “I saw the redemption center in Ames disappear about 25 years ago and I don’t see it coming back.”

Senator Bill Dotzler, a Democrat from Waterloo, said when grocery stores opt out of the system, consumers won’t be able to easily find a place to take their empties.

“The consumer is basically paying five cents for something they’re not going to be able to get back,” Dotzler said, “and that’s a big mistake.”

Schultz said the bill offers an incentive to expand and open new redemption centers.

“I think if you triple the amount of money that goes into a certain sector whether it’s cotton candy, a gun shop or a luxury car dealership, you’re going to get more of them,” Schultz said. “It happens that way.”

A bill that takes a slightly different approach is eligible for debate in the Iowa House. The Republican who’s leading development of that House plan says negotiations with the Senate are underway and he’s “hopeful” about reaching an agreement on a Bottle Bill re-do this year.