Paul LePage Vetoes Bill, Threatens Ban on Small Alcohol Bottles

Small bottles of liquor are at the center of big debate between Maine lawmakers and Gov. Paul LePage.

Gov. LePage has vetoed a bill to add a refundable five-cent deposit fee on 50 milliliter bottles, also known as "nips." In his veto message, he threatened to ban the sale of nips across the state if lawmakers override his veto.

"I don't think that will ever happen," said the bill's sponsor, Rep. Anne Marie Mastraccio (D-Sanford). "I think that's an idle threat."

Rep. Mastraccio said the goal of her bill is to cut down on the number of nips littered throughout the state.

"I think [with the deposit] people will collect them, they will bring them in, and they will be part of a bottle bill that's been very successful in Maine," said Mastraccio.

But the governor said the fee is bad for business. In his veto message, he estimates that it will cost more than $1 million to implement.

He said the real issue is that nips are being consumed behind the wheel.

"They throw them out of the car, because they don't want to keep the evidence in the car," said LePage in a radio interview with WGAN radio last month.

In LePage's veto message, he said if lawmakers do not increase penalties, "an alternative approach is to discontinue the sale of 50 milliliter bottles containing alcohol altogether."

LePage said he would instruct the Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages to de-list nips.

"From a business owner's perspective, Governor – you're wrong on this one," said Stephen Roop, owner of Rooper's Beverage and Redemption.

Roop said he thinks a five-cent deposit is a reasonable fee, which would cut down on littering. He believes an outright ban of nips would only hurt businesses like his.

"We're talking jobs in Lewiston," said Roop.

The Maine House voted 114-31 to override the governor's veto of LD 56, and the Senate could take it up Wednesday.

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