New Bottle Deposits, Higher Fees

Bottled water wasn’t on the radar screen when the state’s bottle bill was passed three decades ago. But time, and the state legislature, have caught up.

On Thursday, water and other non-carbonated beverages sold in bottles will join bottled soda and beer in requiring nickel deposits, redeemable when shoppers return the empties. The change was approved by the state legislature this year — unanimously in the House of Representatives.

As a result, shoppers will be required to plunk down an extra $1.20 on a case of bottled water to cover the deposits.

Expansion of the bottle bill is expected to take millions of plastic bottles out of the waste stream.

The provision marks a major turnaround in policy in Connecticut. For years, water-company lobbyists fought fiercely against the law at the Capitol, but they lost this year because the state expects to receive $17 million in unclaimed money from consumers who throw away their bottles without bothering to claim the 5-cent deposit.

When the original bottle bill was passed in 1978 and took effect two years later, lawmakers could not have foreseen the explosion in the popularity of bottled water, so it was never mentioned in the law.

“Expansion of the bottle bill — the first major expansion of the nearly 30-year-old program — has the potential to remove nearly 500 million containers a year from Connecticut landfills, protecting the environment while reducing litter,” Gov. M. Jodi Rell said.

Oct. 1 is the traditional date for new laws to take effect in Connecticut.

Several other laws take effect Thursday. Among them:

• Fee Increases. Hundreds of fees across state government will increase to close the budget deficit caused by the worst economic downturn in decades. Fees in virtually every category of governmental oversight will increase, including accounting, banking, insurance, agriculture, consumer protection, elections enforcement, labor and public health.

Annual permits for package stores will increase to $500, up from $400, and liquor permits will increase in every category.

Numerous business fees collected by the secretary of the state’s office will rise, the first major increases in 15 years. For example, an annual report for an American company that is filed with the office in Hartford will now cost $150, double the previous rate of $75.

• Cigarette Taxes. Smokers will pay $3 a pack in state taxes, up from $2 a pack. That means a two-pack-a-day smoker will pay $6 a day, or nearly $2,200 each year, in cigarette taxes alone.

In addition, the tobacco products tax — which applies to cigars, pipe camel online and similar products — goes up from 20 percent to 27.5 percent of the wholesale price, and the tax on snuff tobacco goes from 40 cents to 55 cents an ounce.

Identity-Theft Penalties. Criminal penalties will be strengthened Thursday for anyone convicted of identity theft, one of the fastest-growing crimes in the computer age. Criminals who steal the identity of a person over the age of 60 and remove more than $5,000 can be charged with first-degree identity theft, which is a Class B felony.

The new law also allows the state to seize money that was obtained through an identity theft scam, allowing that money to be recovered and eventually returned to the victims.

National statistics show that Connecticut ranks highest in New England for identity scams, prompting the changes. The statute of limitations will also be extended to three years, rather than two, to help victims file lawsuits against criminals who have stolen their identity.

“The statistics and the stories show that identity theft is a serious crime that can severely damage the reputation of its victims and cause long-lasting financial difficulties,” said Sen. Thomas Colapietro, a Bristol Democrat who co-sponsored the law.

• Emergency-Vehicle Road Rules. For most drivers, the rules of the road involve common sense. One of those rules is that drivers should pull over and get out of the way when an ambulance, firetruck or police car is approaching with lights flashing and siren blaring.

Now, it will be known as the “slow down, move over” law. Previously, it was simply a courtesy that some drivers chose to ignore when the ambulance was moving through a crowded intersection.

To spread the word, the state police and AAA will unveil a campaign Thursday on the new law.

• Driver’s License Exam. In another new motor-vehicle law, 16- and 17-year-olds who want to receive a driver’s license must now pass the “DMV final exam” first. This is separate from the 25-question test that teens already must pass when they are trying to receive a learner’s permit.

• Pet trusts. A new law will allow for the care of pets after their owners are gone. A pet trusts law will allow owners to create trusts that will ensure that their beloved animals will not be neglected.


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