AUGUSTA — Ignoring Gov. Paul LePage’s threat to try to ban tiny liquor bottles known as nips if the Legislature requires deposits on them, the House on Tuesday easily passed the two-thirds threshold required to overturn his veto of the measure.

“Let’s reaffirm putting a tip on the nip, to nip littering in the bud,” Rep. Susan Austin, R-Gray, said.

The anti-littering proposal, which heads next to the Senate, would add a nickel deposit to the popular 50-milliliter bottles starting in 2019.

The House approved the override of the governor’s veto by a vote of 114-31 despite LePage’s insistence that if lawmakers fail to sustain it, he will ask the Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations to work with the Liquor and Lottery Commission “to delist these products for sale in Maine.”

That’s a move that might harm a 130-employee Lewiston bottler of the Fireball brand that’s easily the best-loved brand of nips in Maine.

The bottler, Sazerac Co., had helped work out a deal so it could back the proposal but it pulled its endorsement last month after LePage raised the prospect of banning nips to prevent what he views as an unnecessary $1 million expense to deal with returning the bottles for recycling.

Rep. Roger Fuller, D-Lewiston, said legislators should pass the measure anyway.

“The nips we leave on the side of the road will take no less than 450 years to decompose,” a blight on Maine’s landscape that shouldn’t be allowed, Fuller said.

Austin said that last Saturday alone, during her regular two-mile walk, she picked up 25 nip bottles that had been discarded — and realized that the tiny rings and tips on them often “become twisted and separated” to create even more pieces of garbage.

Not every lawmaker, though, was ready to toss aside LePage’s concerns.

Rep. Ellie Espling, R-New Gloucester, said she agrees with the governor that the bill takes the wrong approach. She said the attempt “to regulate behavior” puts unnecessary burdens on business and is “not a good solution to littering.”

Limington Republican Jonathan Kinney said Maine doesn’t have a nip problem; it has a trash problem. He said the real issue is finding a way to convince people not to toss debris out the windows of their cars and trucks.

But Rep. Richard Campbell, R-Orrington, said he views the measure as one of consistency. He said every other bottle containing liquids is covered so nips should be as well.

“We ought to put a deposit on these things,” he said.

Rep. Beth O’Connor, R-Berwick, urged colleagues not to require deposits because she doesn’t want to be tempted to cross the nearby border with New Hampshire, buy nips in bulk and sell them illegally in Maine.


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