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House Overrides LePage Veto Of Bill To Put Deposit On Mini Liquor Bottles

Susan Sharon
Maine Public/file
"Nips" found in Lewiston Industrial Park.

The Maine House has voted to override Gov. Paul LePage’s veto of legislation that would expand Maine’s bottle deposit law to include small liquor bottles known as “nips.”

The final vote was 114-31, and supporters say the core issue is litter. Rep. Susan Austin, a Republican from Gray, says she finds lots of the small, 50-milliliter bottles as she walks along the road near her house, and that it’s not just the bottle that causes the problem.

“The body of the nip, there’s the ring of the tip and there is the tip of the nip. Sadly, those three pieces of plastic can become twisted and separated,” she says.

Others cited studies that show those little pieces of plastic can take decades to decompose in the environment.

The bill would require a 5-cent upfront deposit on the containers, and would take effect in Jan. 2019. Rep. Richard Campbell, a Republican from Orrington, says he’d prefer a higher deposit to provide more of an incentive against littering.

“To be truly consistent there should be a 15 cent deposit, because this is wine and spirits. Somehow we negotiated it only be a 5 cent deposit. This needs a deposit and that’s all it is,” he says.

In his veto letter, LePage raises several objections to the bill. He says that litter would be better addressed by steeper penalties, and he says the bill does nothing to deter people who drink the little bottles of liquor while driving.

LePage has some support. Assistant House Republican leader Ellie Espling of New Gloucester says the state should not put additional burdens on business.

“I think that this bill further tries to regulate behavior. It’s just really not the direction the state should go in. In doing so it is also putting a burden on businesses, which I don’t think is fair,” she says.

LePage has also suggested that he may simply stop the sale of the little bottles of liquor. That would be expensive — the Bureau of Liquor and Lottery Operations has indicated that the state made over $3 million on the sale of over 8 million of the bottles in the last budget year, and sales of nips have been up for the last five years by 40 percent a year.

The bill now goes to the Senate, where it had already passed by a margin above the two-thirds needed for an override.

Journalist Mal Leary spearheads Maine Public's news coverage of politics and government and is based at the State House.