Thursday, January 25, 2007

Johnson, O'Connell, the Bigger Better Bottle Bill & rules

Perhaps you've heard about Assemblyman DiNapoli and Senator LaValle’s “Bigger Better Bottle Bill,” which would expand New York's bottle deposit law to cover not just soda and beer cans, but other ubiquitous recyclable containers like water bottles. (According to industry studies, worldwide sales of bottled water increased by 30 percent between 2000 and 2003 alone. Up to 20 percent of the United States population gets its drinking water exclusively from a bottle.) It's a bill with lots of popular support and a long history of failure.

This week, Artvoice, an alternative paper out of Buffalo, has a great article about the Bigger Better Bottle Bill, tracing its history and giving some interesting stats on how even the small sum of five cents is a big incentive for people to recycle them instead of chucking them in the wastebasket. A five-cent deposit increases return rates by 50 percent, and in Michigan, which has a 10 cent deposit, the return rate is over 90 percent.

While we found this article interesting in its own right, we took particular note of the fact that like so much in Albany, its failed history appears to be closely intertwined with the Legislature's opaque and undemocratic rules. For one thing, this appears to be yet another example of legislative leaders bottling up bills (pun definitely intended) in committee:
Albany Times Union columnist Fred LeBrun told Artvoice that Senate Majority Leader Bruno is "adamantly opposed [to the Bigger Better Bottle Bill] because he is the spokesperson, really, for the business and corporate community. He has not let [the bill] out of committee for two years. And he will try not to again this year but he will have less to say about it if Mr. Johnson wins and not Ms. O’Connell. So it is definitely a race to watch."
We're not convinced by Mr. LeBrun's final conclusion. Unfortunately, as our research has shown, what really matters in Albany is not how many Senators support a bill, but who controls the committees. And no matter what happens on February 6th, we're pretty sure that on February 7th, Majority Leader Bruno will still control them. And he'll still have the power — under the "new" rules adopted on January 19 — to make sure any bill he doesn't like never comes to the floor for a vote.

Categories: General, Legislative Rules

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