Friday, January 02, 2009

Bottle Bill Showdown

As we approach the new legislative session, all of those interested in the fate of the "Bigger, Better, Bottle Bill," should be prepared for a bruising battle. The enviros certainly are: "The commissioner of the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation has urged support for the “bigger, better bottle bill,” maintaining it would have positive benefits in the Buffalo Niagara region. “Updating our state’s bottle bill law to include noncarbonated beverage containers will help us achieve two important goals: make our communities cleaner and generate necessary funding to help support our parks,” Commissioner Carol Ash said in a written statement."

And while the expanded bottle deposit law has previously passed in the assembly, it has always had rough sledding in the state senate. However, with the Democrats perhaps usurping control, the battle in the senate is going to get very contentious; and it's hard to predict the outcome. Both sides need 32 votes-assuming that there is no leadership hold on the measure, something that was commonplace when Joe Bruno ruled the roost.

We have already outlined our opposition to the measure, but one point needs continued emphasis: If we're looking to increase the number of supermarkets-particularly in low income areas-we need to reduce overhead, and not add to the cost of doing business, something that an expanded bottle bill absolutely will do. The food retail business, at all levels, has been an incubator for minority business growth; over half the supermarkets in the city are minority-owned. But because of escalating costs, the NY Times has shown that many of these operators are being driven out of the city-and are opening stores in lower taxed and less challenged regulatory environments.

Everything else is white noise as far as we're concerned. But retailers, bottlers and beer distributors better be getting ready for this. Supporters of an expanded bill-something that has a fiscal implication as well-are really reved up for this fight; don't be bringing any knives to this gun fight if you're gonna hope to prevail.