Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Unscrewing the Bottle Tops

As we had urged a few weeks ago, there appears to be a move to amend the recently passed expanded bottle bill. As the Times Union reports (via Liz): "State lawmakers are considering revising New York's expanded bottle deposit law before it takes effect to address problems outlined by retailers and bottlers."

And the problems that are front and center, are precisely those that we had outlined in our original post on the subject-and the ones we have been pressing in our own lobbying efforts on behalf of Good-O Beverage and a host of other small soda companies: "Of particular concern is a requirement that all containers sold in New York carry a state-specific UPC bar code. The provision was intended to prevent fraudulent returns, but many grocers, bottlers and breweries say it would wreak havoc on their production and distribution systems. They also say it could be impossible to meet the deadlines for that provision included in last month's legislation."

And, of course, there is an almost unanimous belief that the June 1st inception date simply cannot be met, as well as a concern about the reverse vending machine regulation: "The objections from retailers and bottlers have focused mainly on three aspects of the legislation: the New York-specific UPC code, which is used to scan prices; a series of near-immediate implementation dates, including June 1 for the UPC code; and a requirement that stores install more reverse-vending machines to collect returned containers."

Fortunatley, our lobbying efforts have not fallen on deaf ears: ""The Senate majority is reviewing concerns that have been brought to our attention, and we are looking at fixing some of these concerns," including the UPC bar code, said Travis Proulx, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith. In a news conference Tuesday afternoon, Smith also acknowledged "the effective date may be an issue."

And the assembly apparently is not immune to making some changes: "Melissa Mansfield, a spokeswoman for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, said "we are aware of the concerns and we are looking into it," but declined to elaborate on any potential action." It is clear, however, that a clean up bill is going to be forthcoming on this issue-which behooves all of those impacted to make sure that their voices are heard; or, as the saying goes, "Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace!"

Aside from the issues outlined above, we are looking to exempt smaller companies entirely from some of the onerous provisions in the expansion; and plan to underscore just how job killing and anti-small business they are. The response of the legislators has, so far, been encouraging.