June 2, 2021

Senator Haskell Votes to Approve Updates to ‘Bottle Bill,’ Automatic College Enrollment and Assistance for Small Businesses

Tonight, State Senator Will Haskell (D-Westport) joined the Senate in passing updates to the state’s Bottle Bill as well as forming an automatic college enrollment program for public state universities and approving a COVID-19 relief bill for Connecticut businesses.

Under the new bottle bill, SB 1037, Connecticut liquor wholesalers will begin collecting a 5-cent surcharge on 50ml “nip” liquor bottles, the revenue of which will go to cities and towns to fight the widespread litter of these liquor bottles. The bill also expands the list of drink bottles requiring a deposit to include hard seltzer and hard cider as well as plant water, juice, juice drinks, tea, coffee, kombucha, plant infused drink, and sports and energy drinks, and it raises the deposit amount from 5 cents to 10 cents, beginning January 1, 2024.

“To protect our local parks, playgrounds, and green spaces, we need to align our recycling standards with the modern day,” said Sen. Haskell. “This bill accomplishes exactly that. It updates our bottle return policies to reflect the vastly expanded offerings available in stores today and doubles the returnable surcharge on those bottles and cans. Taking steps like these will advance our efforts to reduce litter and address the increasing popularity of all the new drinks released since the Bottle Bill was first enacted – 40 years ago.”

SB 1037 is the result of a long debate in Connecticut about how to remove plastic and glass bottle litter from our environment, and how to address the popularity of new types of drinks – besides just soda and beer – to include the variety of hard seltzers, hard ciders, sports drinks, and other popular new beverages crowding grocery store aisles and the resulting litter in our environment.

The issue of “nip” litter has been especially troublesome: with no deposit required on them, the tiny liquor bottles have become the focus of local, annual grassroots nip clean-up drives that can collect as many as 50,000 nip bottles in a single day from neighborhood streets, parks, riverbanks, forests, and storm drains. The bill specifically requires that liquor wholesalers who sell nip bottles must pay 5 cents per bottle sold twice a year to the city or town where the nips were sold, with the money to be used by the town specifically for cleaning up any nip bottle trash by – for example – hiring a recycling coordinator, installing storm drain filters, or purchasing a mechanical street sweeper or vacuum to remove nip trash from streets, sidewalks and lawns.

Senate Bill 1037, “AN ACT CONCERNING SOLID WASTE MANAGEMENT,” passed the Senate on a bipartisan 33-1 vote and now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.

To help address the issue of solid waste management, and to save municipalities money in their waste disposal costs, SB 1037 also directs the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (to begin the in-state processing of no less than 80% of the wine and liquor bottles sold into Connecticut and turn them into furnace-ready cullet (broken glass ready for recycling) to be used in cement, glass and fiberglass products.

Senate Bill 711 takes an important step to benefit businesses by providing them with a tax exemption for purchasing necessary protective equipment to limit the spread of COVID-19.

“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, small businesses in Connecticut suffered immensely” said Sen. Haskell. “One way we can provide relief is by lifting the tax burden on the very products they need to keep their employees and customers safe. I’m happy that the legislature is acting in the name of small businesses.”

Senate Bill 711, “An Act Concerning COVID-19 Relief For Small Businesses And Requiring Federal Regulatory Analysis For Proposed State Regulations,” establishes a sales and use tax exemption for small businesses for personal protective equipment used or worn to prevent COVID-19 infection or transmission. Small businesses will need to present certificates at point of sale; “small business” is defined as a business with 100 or fewer full-time employees. The sales tax exemption would last for two years through 2023.

The legislation previously passed the Commerce Committee by a unanimous vote.

Finally, through his vote to approve Senate Bill 881, “An Act Concerning Workforce Development,” Sen. Haskell voted to make Connecticut the 13th state to provide an “auto-admission” program for public higher education in Connecticut. Students who meet or exceed academic standards set by the state, qualify as in-state students, are in their last year before graduation in high school and earn a high school diploma, will automatically be accepted as a full-time, first-year student for an in-person bachelor’s degree program at Western Connecticut, Southern Connecticut, Eastern Connecticut, and Central Connecticut.

“We know our workforce will require as many as 70% of workers to have college degrees in the next few years. We also know that college admissions are declining nationwide, including in Connecticut, where admissions declined 3.5% compared to 2.5% nationally,” said Sen. Haskell. “With this legislation, students who may plan to attend college out of state may find they have better, less expensive opportunities here in Connecticut. First-generation college students will have a chance to prove themselves. And the graduates who get their diplomas a few years later will be ready for the workforce. This bill is a huge step up for businesses and students alike.”

Senate Bill 881 would create the Connecticut Automatic Admissions Program, which would consist of an online application form for students to apply to public universities in Connecticut. That application would also inform students of information and resources regarding college admissions and financial aid and the net cost of completing a bachelor’s degree program, graduation rates and average earnings for graduates. Thresholds for admission will include class rank percentile, grade point average, or a combination of GPA and performance on college readiness assessments like the SAT.