Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Journal Muses on Stymied Bottle Bill

In yesterday's Journal News, the paper editorially laments about the delay in implementing the expanded bottle bill: "It's not sunk, but the New York bill to require nickel deposits on water bottles is awash in political bile, industry self-interest and twisted priorities. Gov David Paterson and the Legislature need to fix the bill, which was supposed to become law today."

Well, this isn't the real issue that the paper should be focused on. The fact is that the law was poorly crafted, and as a result, was in violation of basic constitutional principles-something that the JN recognizes, but only in passing at the end of the editorial: "Plaintiffs, including the International Bottled Water Association, found an achilles heel in the law, arguing that labeling requirements in the measure violate the U.S. Constitution because the law seeks to regulate commerce among states - beverage makers and distributors must place a bar code on water bottles prohibiting their sale in other states. Wednesday, a federal judge agreed, issuing a temporary injunction. U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Griesa ruled that the plaintiffs did not have enough time to comply with the law, and told the state and bottlers they needed to work out a reasonable time frame for the law to take effect."

And it does so by saying that the judge's ruling, "blurs the issues." But it is the paper itself that has blurry vision; first in its lack of knowledge over how the beverage law actually functions. Here is it's observation on unredeemed deposits: "And despite grumbling by the beverage and grocers industries about the original bill, they benefited from unclaimed deposits in the tens of millions of dollars each year; in 2006 they totaled an estimated $144 million."

Not exactly true. The grocery stores do not benefit from any of the unredeemed deposits-only those bottlers and beer wholesalers who initiate the deposits do. And the Journal News also misconstrues the facts about the handling fees: "And this year's bill did something else: It would send unclaimed deposits to the state, which faces a multi billion-dollar deficit, and use some of the revenue for environmental protection. To make the bottlers and distributors a little happier, it also increased the handling fee that they pay retailers and redemption centers from 2 cents per container to 3.5 cents."

Well, not true again. The bottlers are vehemently opposed to the increased handling fees-because they must pay them! That's why they've been lobbying the governor to decrease these levies, ones that they see as taxes on beverage consumers.

So, the Journal News is pontificating here without a sound factual foundation. The law came crashing down because of the flawed process that more or less excluded the same lobbyists that the paper excoriates. Any new bill will need to be cognizant of not only industry interests, but those of consumers as well; not to mention basic constitutional precepts.