Sen. Jason Schultz (photo from Iowa legislature)

For the first time in 44 years, lawmakers have voted to make changes in Iowa’s popular “Bottle Bill.”

“I’m glad this is happening. It’s time,” said Senator Jason Schultz of Schleswig, one of 30 Republicans who voted to accept House adjustments and send the bill to the governor.

The legislation would let grocery stores stop accepting empty bottles and cans and paying deposits. Redemption centers would see their per container handling fee increased to three cents. Wholesale distributors of beer and pop would be able to keep the money from unredeemed containers.

“We’ve been working on this thing for years and this year we started with recognizing what the people of Iowa want,” Schultz said. “…They don’t want the deposit increased. They don’t want that tax on the can to go from a nickel to a dime. They want that left alone. This does that. They want more locations to redeem.”

Schultz said more redemption centers will open once the per container handling fee is being tripled. There are only five dozen redemption centers in Iowa today. Senator Claire Celsi, a Democrat from Des Moines, said letting grocery stores and other retailers opt out of accepting empties means many Iowans will have nowhere to get their deposits back.

“It’s less convenient for consumers,” Celsi said.

Senator Joe Bolkcom, a Democrat from Iowa City, said the bill will be a “massive windfall” to wholesalers who’ll continue to keep those unredeemed deposits.  “Iowa consumers will pay for these cans and bottles and they’ll never see the money again,” Bolkcom said. “What a sweet deal to our beverage distributors and there’s no accounting for it here.”

Bolkcom also objects to the tax credit for beer distributors that’s included in the bill. The 15 “no” votes in the Senate came from Democrats.

The plan got bipartisan support in the Iowa House last month and now goes to the governor. Last month Governor Reynolds told reporters she was solely focused on rounding up votes for her private school scholarships and had not been negotiating with legislators on Bottle Bill changes.