Even at 5 cents a can, millions at stake in Iowa bottle bill debate | Local

“I’m trying to get arms around how many people just threw cans in trash because of COVID-19,” Jochum said. “If down to 50 percent because of the pandemic, that’s a lot of money. That’s a lot of money.”

Despite Rozenboom’s optimism and the progress lobbyist see in bottle bill discussions, no bill signings are being planned so far.

SF 470, which was approved by the Senate Natural Resources and Environment Committee, now sits in the Ways and Means Committee. Chairman Dan Dawson, R-Council Bluffs, has been tied up with tax issues but said he hopes to focus on the bottle bill in the coming weeks.

Updating the bottle bill doesn’t seem to be on the “must-do” list, especially in a year when legislators already have tackled divisive legislation — expanding gun rights, free speech and diversity training issues, school funding, in-person education and election changes — and are talking about tax cuts and amending the state constitution to restore felon voting rights and restrict abortions.

“There’s a ceiling on hard issues,” said Coonan, the lobbyist who is a former Senate staffer. “Regardless of merits of the bottle bill, this may not rise to the level of hard things.”

There don’t seem to be political consequences for inaction. There’s bipartisan support for modifying the bottle bill as well as bipartisan support for making no change. For some legislators, changes to the program mean choosing between friends — the grocers, convenience stores, bottlers and wholesalers.

Read MoreEven at 5 cents a can, millions at stake in Iowa bottle bill debate | Local