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For the first time in memory, the Rhode Island General Assembly is taking a bottle bill seriously, and it’s thanks to the hard work and advocacy of our members and coalition partners. As the 2023 legislative session hurries to a close, the Senate and Assembly have created a joint House and Senate study commission to examine a bottle bill, and Clean Water Action will be on it. While we are obviously disappointed that the bottle bill didn’t pass outright, this is the next best outcome.

What is a study commission? The Rhode Island General Assembly only meets for half of the year, so if a bill doesn’t pass by summer, you have to begin advocating for it again from scratch the following January. A study commission is an effort to get interested parties at the table with legislators to work out the details of a new policy in “the off-season.” While, historically, study commissions were seen as a way to kick a legislative can down the road, more recently, they have been an effective tool to prepare a complicated issue for passage in the next session with the study commission on shoreline access being a recent example. As the House sponsor of the bottle bill, Representative Carol Hagan McEntee, noted this week: “I guarantee you there will be a bill. That’s what’s coming out of this [study commission].”

We will be serving on the bottle bill study commission alongside advocates from Save the Bay and the RI Audubon Society as well as representatives from other interested parties like small convenience store owners and the Rhode Island Beverage Association. Our goal continues to be a beverage container policy that will reduce litter and improve recycling, and we’re excited to sit down at the table with everyone to work out the details this summer.

Thank you to the hundreds of folks who contacted your legislators, showed up at the State House, picked up nips and bottles, and fought for a strong bottle bill all winter and spring. Your efforts are the reason why this joint study commission is meeting this summer, and Clean Water Action will continue to keep everyone updated on ways to support a bottle bill through the fall and winter. Now that we have shown the grassroots power of this coalition, the legislature can’t stuff this issue back in the bottle. 

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