AUGUSTA — Without much opposition Wednesday, the Senate followed the House’s lead to override Gov. Paul LePage’s veto of a measure to require deposits for small liquor bottles known as nips.

The move, which adds a nickel deposit to the 50-milliliter bottles starting in 2019, secured the required two-thirds vote by a 29-6 margin.

LePage has threatened to try to get nips banned if the Legislature refused to sustain his veto. But it’s not clear he has the authority to do more than suggest the change to regulators who have the final say.

The House approved the override of the governor’s veto by 114-31 margin Tuesday.

The prospect of a ban on nips raised alarms for Mark Brown, the chief executive officer of Sazerac Co., which operates a 130-employee Lewiston bottler that sells the Fireball brand that is popular statewide.

In a letter to the Senate president, Brown said a ban would have “a drastic impact” on Sazerac’s sales.

The sustainability project director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine, Sarah Lakeman, hailed the measure’s passage as an important step against roadside litter.

“These tiny liquor bottles are found along Maine roadsides in alarming numbers and the 5 cent deposit will encourage people not to litter and will also encourage people to pick them up,” she said in a prepared statement.

For 40 years, she said, the bottle bill program has helped keep Maine beautiful. She said Mainers “recognize the bottle bill is part of our culture and a symbol of our environmental stewardship. We look forward to the addition of nips to this successful program.”

Gov. Paul LePage vetoed LD 56, a bill that would require retailers to collect a 5-cent bottle deposit on the small, 50-milliliter liquor bottles. The Maine House and Senate overrode the veto.


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