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Iowa: Good News and Bad News On Bottles

Good news: The Iowa General Assembly has decided that the “new” bottle bill tax proposed by Iowa Governor Chet Culver (see earlier story [1]) is dead for 2008.Coke Bottles [2] As you would probably think, I’m pleased. It’s not clear if the reason for the timely demise is that there’s too much confusion, the idea needs more work than the Legislature can handle during it’s 100-day session (Iowa’s General Assembly meets until April 22, or at least per diem expenses cease to be paid at that point), public sentiment has been strong enough to kill it, the grocery lobby bought enough lunches, or it’s just a stupid idea.

I’m convinced that there is room to discuss expanding the program to include water and juice bottles, although there are still other options to consider. We recycle those products in my home (through the “Curb-it” program), but not all parts of the state have recycling options available for those products. I’m vehemently opposed to the parts of Culver’s proposal that amount to a tax (including the increased deposit amount, the differential between the deposit and redemption amounts and the receiver of unredeemed deposit amounts shifting from the distributors to the state). Next year, I’ll be prepared. I may even write a letter to my representatives.

Thankfully, we can finally focus on something important, like licensing bicycles, figuring out how to tax or not to tax the US Government stimulus money, how to throw spend more money at on schools, how to generate more revenue (that bottle bill thing almost worked). Money is tight this year (in case you haven’t heard), and yet I haven’t heard too much about how to reduce spending. If we had some extra money we could hire a few smart (expensive) consultants to tell us what to do, but thankfully we have the General Assembly instead. Seriously, it’s a lot of work, and I appreciate the sacrifice many of the people have to make to spend 4 months in Des Moines. There are some things they could do to cut spending (including some of the pomp involved in running the session), but overall they do the best they can. And they’re ours… we voted for them!

Now the bad news: we have a case of confused Iowans already. My hopes to see the American electorate becoming more knowledgeable about government by promoting the reading of good solid materials is entirely lame if the majority of citizens can’t read any better than Iowans. The wonderful people in my beloved state are simply having trouble taking in all the content in their daily newspaper (or listening to the radio or watching TV news). According to reports from alert shoppers (that would be my wife noticing this at the local Dahl’s supermarket), the grocery industry in Iowa has already been forced to post signs that essentially Water Bottles [3]say “We don’t currently accept water or juice bottles for redemption”.

Iowa law currently requires deposits (and redemptions) on carbonated beverage containers (cans and bottles) and wine bottles. There has been no change in the law yet (and unlikely this year as mentioned above) and all of the news reports are clear in the fact that this has been a proposal. No bill of any kind has been presented to either house on this topic (as far as I can tell) and even if a bill passed would still not be enacted until July 1, 2008 at the earliest. More importantly, the deposit/redemption process requires that a deposit payment be made on any container for which a redemption is to be paid, and such payment is validated by the pre-printing of deposit information on the container. Customers have apparently been trying to return water and juice bottles that aren’t marked as redeemable in the very first place!!! Either these people are reading or listening to just enough of the news to convince themselves that the law has already changed, or, hmmmm, I don’t even have an alternative hypothesis (intentional deception occurs to me, but it just doesn’t seem tenable).

Remember the episode of Seinfeld when George’s uncle was caught shoplifting… “I’m a confused old man” he would say to try and keep from being arrested. I feel like we’re turning into a society of the “Confused, lead me by the hand”.

Perhaps part of the problem is information overload and people just don’t have time to read or hear the whole story and can’t get past the (oh-my-gosh) headline and first paragraph. BTW, in Journalism 101, they used to teach that the first paragraph is intended to generate interest so you stay and read the whole story. These days most writers just use it to cram as much information as possible so you walk away feeling full even though you’re not, kind of like Chinese food. Perhaps we need to preface every story about legislative proposals with:

“Warning: the following news story is about an idea being proposed by your left-leaning governor. This is not a real law, yet. If this news story were about a real law, you would be instructed in great detail about how to change your entire life, and how to be happy about it. This is to coerce you to do the right thing because, according to accepted liberal thinking, you don’t know how to do the right thing in the first place.”

*sigh* I’m depressing myself.

But really, this is a message to all Iowans:

Attention: Nothing has changed! The Bottle Law is still as it was!

Thank you, citizens. You may return to your homes now. There’s nothing to see here.

Friday morning update: News I either missed or just came up this morning, Governor Culver is asking the General Assembly to consider a modified version of his proposal that drops the increased deposit model and just expands the types of bottles covered by the existing program (that is, water bottles and juice bottles).  We’ll see what transpires over the next week… I still have my doubts about this change.