AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) - A bill that supporters hope will rid the landscape of many of the millions of miniature alcohol bottles sold each year is heading to the Maine Senate.
The Maine House voted 111-34 Tuesday to make Maine's bottle deposit laws apply to 50 milliliter and smaller wine or spirits bottles.
Maine is one of 10 states with bottle deposit systems, and is one of three states whose laws include distilled spirits like vodka and whisky. But Maine and Vermont have long exempted tiny containers.
Maine Audubon says the bill will reduce litter, while alcohol industry lobbyists call the 15-cent deposit anti-business and impractical. The state's alcoholic beverages and lottery bureau opposed the bill and said increased redemption could cost the state $1 million each year.
Gov. LePage released a statement on May 16 in response to the bill, saying, if passed, he "[would] veto the bill" and instruct the state Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages & Lottery Operations (BABLO) to "delist all nips from sale in Maine."
You can read the governor's full statement below:
"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," said Governor LePage. "Senator Saviello said he would call my bluff that I would delist 50-millileter 'nip' bottles if this bill passes. A Maine legislator should know better than that. 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."
BABLO has already informed Agency Liquor Stores that delisting of nips could likely result from the passage of this bill. "If the Legislature is really concerned about litter, delisting nips will ensure that they are not sold in Maine, and fewer of them end up as litter," said the Governor. "We will also then know that discarded nip bottles are coming in from out of state."
Governor LePage pointed out that supporters of this bill dishonestly exempted it from going to the Appropriations table to hide the true cost of the bill. Implementation of this bill is estimated to cost the State of Maine $1 million a year. However, the legislature did not appropriate funds to cover the cost. Instead, the bill's sponsor took the cost from revenue in the state's liquor contract, proceeds of which are used to fund drinking water programs and roads and bridges, as provided in statute.
"This is yet another anti-business vote that threatens jobs, increases costs to do business and puts the state's financial health at risk," said Governor LePage. "Unfortunately, this kind of secretive backroom deal that burdens the taxpayers is what I've come to expect."