UPDATE: Maine Governor Paul LePage vetoed L.D. 56 on June 2, citing skepticism about the bill's effectiveness to reduce litter and concerns about drunk driving, as reported by the Bangor Daily News.
In his veto message, LePage questioned the financial precedent of the bill's estimated $1 million cost. He also made the case for increased littering penalties as a more appropriate way to address the spread of "nip" bottles along roadways and public spaces.
"Absent increased penalties, which this bill failed to impose, an alternative approach is to discontinue the sale of 50ml bottles containing alcohol all together. If this bill passes, I have directed the Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations to work with the Liquor and Lottery Commission to delist these products for sale in Maine," wrote LePage. "Rather than support this costly bill, which will not reduce drunk driving and does nothing to curb the destruction of evidence through littering, I return L.D. 56 to you unsigned and vetoed. I strongly urge the Legislature to sustain it."
The governor's official statement included a photo of a totaled vehicle from a "fatal drunk-driving accident" to emphasize his point.
- Efforts to regulate 50-milliliter liquor bottles, commonly known as "nips," are spreading fast in New England with multiple bills and petitions circulating in Massachusetts and Maine. Both of Maine's legislative branches have voted in support of a bill, L.D. 56, that would add a 5-cent deposit to the bottles by 2019 and are moving forward with further negotiations, as reported by the Portland Press Herald.
- Governor Paul LePage has threatened to veto the bill and ban nips from stores entirely if the legislature attempts to override him. He has provided multiple reasons for this approach, most recently saying that a bottle deposit still wouldn't deter drivers from throwing them out their windows to eliminate evidence if pulled over. LePage's threat has prompted a local bottler behind the popular Fireball brand — which comprises 42% of nip sales in the state — to pull their support for the bill, as reported by the Bangor Daily News.
- Bill H3528 has also been introduced in Massachusetts to add any container smaller than 100 milliliters to the state's redemption program with a 5-cent deposit. Keep Massachusetts Beautiful has started an online petition in support of the bill. Local residents and elected officials have also been vocal about finding ways to regulate the bottles.
Nip bottles may be recyclable, but according to environmental groups and community clean-up volunteers many of these bottles never make it into bins at all. During the most recent fiscal year, Maine liquor stores sold 8.4 million bottles with an unknown number ending up along roadways, beaches and park paths. Including them in existing bottle deposit programs, rather than attempting to ban them outright, has been a relatively uncontroversial compromise until now.
Maine lawmakers intentionally chose a 2019 start date to allow time for labels to be redesigned and avoid the additional cost of printing special stickers to denote the 5-cent deposit. The idea hasn't gained as much traction in Massachusetts, but it has become a common topic of discussion among the same environmental advocates working to enact bans or fees on other types of packaging. Members of the Mass Green Network, a driving force behind many of the more than 50 bag ordinances in the states, have been particularly focused on the idea in recent months.
Efforts to regulate bags statewide have been unsuccessful in both states so far — LePage vetoed one bill last month — but local momentum on the issue hasn't abated. Neighboring Vermont is considering its own bag bill and environmental advocates in multiple states have also begun turning their attention to other items such as polystyrene containers and plastic water bottles. Compared to some of those efforts, a 5-cent deposit on nips may be a more palatable option for both recyclers and manufacturers that would deliver a win for environmental groups at the same time.