State reps split on deposits for nip bottles, other bills

By Stephen Betts | May 17, 2017
Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham A sample of the nips being debated in the legislature. This was one of several found in a local parking lot May 17.

Rockland — Local legislators were divided over the past week on a variety of bills as the Legislature tackled more proposed legislation.

The one bill on which local legislators were in nearly unanimous agreement was LD 56, which would extend the bottle deposit law to 50 milliliter and smaller bottles. This bill would impose a 5-cent deposit on these bottles, whose popularity has increased over the past few years and which often litter the roadsides.

On May 9, the Maine House voted 111 to 34 for LD 56. The Maine Senate followed suit on May 16, supporting the legislation 32-3.

All local legislators -- except Rep. Paula Sutton, R-Warren -- voted for the bill.

Sutton said the bill would cost $1.3 million to implement. She also said that a 5 cent deposit would not prevent people from costing the nip bottles out of cars.

Gov. Paul LePage has opposed the bill.

“Legislators say they want to prevent the littering of empty 'nip’ bottles, but they do not care if it cuts funding to other state programs or increases costs for companies that do business here,” LePage said in a news release posted on the state website.

"If this bill is passed, I will veto the bill, and I will instruct the Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages & Lottery Operations to begin working immediately with the Liquor and Lottery Commission to delist all nips from sale in Maine. I do so with regret, but the severe impact of this bill leaves me no choice," LePage said.

Amend state Constitution

The Maine House and Senate have also given approval to a bill that would begin the process of amending the state Constitution to explicitly protect against discrimination on the basis of sex.

The bill adds this clause to the Constitution, "Equality of rights under the law may not be denied or abridged based on the sex of an individual."

The House voted 78 to 65 on May 11 to approve LD 197.

Democratic Reps. Pinny Beebe-Center of Rockland, John Spear of South Thomaston and independent Owen Casas of Rockport voted for the bill.

Sutton and Rep. Abden Simmons, R-Waldoboro, voted against the bill.

Sutton said the change was unnecessary because there were already laws that prohibited sex discrimination.

The Senate voted 19 to 16 on May 16 to reject a minority report of the Judiciary Committee to kill the bill.

Sen. David Miramant, D-Camden, and Sen. Dana Dow, R-Waldoboro, voted to keep the equal rights amendment alive. Sen. Michael Thibodeau, R-Winterport, voted to kill the legislation.

The Constitution can only be amended if two thirds of both the House and Senate approve the legislation and then voters approve the measure in a statewide referendum.

Banning insurance disparities

The House also approved a bill -- LD 769 -- to prohibit health insurance carriers from varying premium rates based on age, geographic location or tobacco use.

The House voted 76 to 69 on May 16 to approve the bill. Beebe-Center, Casas, and Spear voted for the bill, while Sutton and Simmons voted against it.

The Senate voted against the bill, but there was no roll-call vote.

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