New bill could trash part of Milliken’s environmental legacy

    William Milliken

    Rep. Joseph Bellino (R-Monroe) introduced a bill, House Bill 6533, right after Thanksgiving that would toss out Michigan’s 40-year old bottle deposit law. Michiganders are refunded 10 cents for cans and bottles of beverages such as beer and soft drinks.

    The “bottle bill” was a key part of GOP former Gov. William Milliken’s environmental legacy. Milliken and his wife, Helen, were instrumental in getting the proposal on the 1976 ballot. The initiative won by a 2 to 1 margin, despite fierce opposition from retailers and beverage makers.

    Milliken is widely viewed as one of the most successful governors in Michigan history, serving from 1969 to 1983. But his moderate politics have made him unpopular with some current GOP lawmakers and activists. After Milliken endorsed Democrat Hillary Clinton for president in 2016, he was unceremoniously excommunicated by his local Republican party in Grand Traverse County.

    Joseph Bellino

    Sen. Rebekah Warren (D-Ann Arbor) and Rep. Jon Hoadley (D-Kalamazoo) are among those who have championed legislation expanding the bill to include water, juice and energy drinks, but there’s been no movement.

    Even staunch conservative Detroit News editorial page Editor Nolan Finley endorsed the idea of adding water bottles. He wrote a column earlier this year singing the law’s praises for achieving a 95 to 98 percent recycling rate for beer and soda containers.

    However, Bellino believes it’s time for the bottle bill to go. He told WDIV-TV in Detroit the impetus of his bill is to improve upon Michigan’s community recycling rate, which lags behind the national average.

    Bellino, who owns the Broadway Market in Monroe, admitted to Bridge that he has a “vested interest” in scrapping the law, which would save him roughly $9,000 a year.

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    Susan J. Demas is an 18-year journalism veteran and one of the state’s foremost experts on Michigan politics, appearing on MSNBC, CNN, NPR and WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.” In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief, she is the Advance’s chief columnist, writing on women, LGBTQs, the state budget, the economy and more. Most recently, she served as Vice President of Farough & Associates, Michigan’s premier political communications firm. For almost five years, Susan was the Editor and Publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, the most-cited political newsletter in the state. Susan’s award-winning political analysis has run in more than 80 national, international and regional media outlets, including the Guardian U.K., NBC News, the New York Times, the Detroit News and MLive. She is the only Michigan journalist to be named to the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Reporters,” the Huffington Post’s list of “Best Political Tweeters” and the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Bloggers.” Susan was the recipient of a prestigious Knight Foundation fellowship in nonprofits and politics. She served as Deputy Editor for MIRS News and helped launch the Michigan Truth Squad, the Center for Michigan’s fact-checking project. She started her journalism career reporting on the Iowa caucuses for The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. Susan has hiked over 3,000 solo miles across four continents and climbed more than 60 mountains. She also enjoys dragging her husband and two teenagers along, even if no one else wants to sleep in a tent anymore.

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