Pollina looks to reclaim “lost nickels” from soda, beer giants

Amid all the merger action today, Senate lawmakers manage to tick some other bills off the backlog that’s been piling up over the last couple weeks.

Once it became clear that it would take hours for legislators to cobble together freshly worded merger amendments, Senate President John Campbell opted to move on to the capital bill. Then came the solid waste bill, legislation dealing with private activity bonds, and the prescription-drug monitoring bill. All won final approval bynoon.

The Senate notably shot down an amendment to the solid waste bill offered by Sen. Anthony Pollina. Pollina wanted to reclaim on Vermonters’ behalf the nickels that beverage companies get to hold onto when people don’t return their redeemable bottles or cans.

Right now, companies like Coca Cola or Anheuser Busch get to keep those nickels, and they add up fast. According to one estimate, unclaimed deposits exceed $2 million annually. The beverage lobby successfully fended off the effort – they say the money helps defray the considerable costs incurred by soda and beer companies in the transport of recyclables.

Pollina said lawmakers ought not worry about companies like Coke, which recorded $2 billion in profits in the last quarter and paid its CEO $24 million last year.

He chalked up the amendment’s 12-18 defeat on the Senate floor to the skilled lobbyists employed by beverage associations, which combined spent more than $150,000 on Statehouse lobbying services between July of 2011 and January of this year.

Check out the Times Argus and Rutland Herald this weekend for a full story on Pollina’s proposal, and why he says it failed.

The Senate has broken for lunch, but is scheduled to return at 1:30 to take up, again, issues related to the utility merger.