RICHMOND, FEB. 1 -- The Virginia Senate today crushed a proposal to put a 10-cent deposit on bottles and cans to encourage recycling, amid lobbying from a powerful coalition of bottlers, merchants and labor unions opposed to the bill.
Also today, lawmakers compromised on a resolution that could boost support for a western bypass of the Washington area through Fairfax and Loudoun counties. The bypass is opposed by some environmental groups, which say only an eastern bypass -- largely through Maryland -- should be built. Proponents say both routes will be needed.
Supporters had boasted that the so-called bottle bill, a divisive issue that has been proposed and defeated in almost every General Assembly session for 15 years, had gained crucial momentum this year.
But today's 25 to 12 vote produced exactly the same number of supporters as the last time the legislation came to the floor eight years ago.
"You're going to create havoc, and you're going to cost a lot of people their jobs," said Sen. William E. Fears (D-Accomoc), whose district includes Anheuser-Busch's large beer bottling plant near Williamsburg and who spearheaded the fight against the bottle bill.
Proponents, including farm and environmental groups, said bottle bills have succeeded in reducing litter in the nine states that have implemented versions of the idea.
Opponents countered that it would be unfair for stores to have to collect and pay back deposits and arrange for empties to be taken to recycling centers. Unions argued that a recycling law would cost jobs in the bottling industry.
No one was more deflated by the measure's defeat than Sen. Madison E. Marye (D-Montgomery), who has led a crusade on behalf of the bottle bill since coming to the Senate in 1973.
After the vote, he said it will fall to others to push the measure in the future.
"As a legislator, it's a mistake to get involved with an issue too emotionally," he said. "The issue becomes you and you become the issue."
Some of Marye's Senate supporters said he was being beaten less on the merits of the bottle legislation than by the combined clout of the special interests opposed to it.
"The lobbyists on this issue are among the strongest you'll encounter," said Sen. Charles L. Waddell (D-Loudoun), who lauded the bottle measure as a "common sense bill."
The compromise on a beltway resolution was worked out in private between its sponsor, Waddell, and its chief opponent, Sen. Joseph V. Gartlan Jr. (D-Mount Vernon), and then was adopted by the Senate Rules Committee before it was put in writing.
Waddell said he hoped that the agreement would be "a step toward" construction of a western bypass. The agreement says the bypass should be financed from federal money and tolls, and plans should not proceed until a new environmental impact study is completed. It also urges that consideration be given to mass transit as a way of relieving congestion in the outer suburbs.
Gartlan said he is "still not convinced that a western bypass is the solution, but if we're going to do that, this assures that we'll do it in a better way."
Georgia H. Herbert, a lobbyist for the Conservation Council of Virginia and member of the Fauquier County Board of Supervisors, expressed dismay that details of the compromise were not revealed before the committee voted. But Herbert said that "if something was going to be rammed through, this sounds considerably better" than Waddell's original proposal.
Even with the compromise, Gov. L. Douglas Wilder (D) remains opposed to the resolution, and to a budget amendment backed by Gartlan that would prohibit spending any state money on a study of the western route until a new environmental impact study is completed.
Meanwhile, the House Committee on Counties, Cities and Towns killed a bill that could have forced small developers near Dulles International Airport to reimburse Bahman Batmanghelidj, builder of the McNair Farms project, for some of what he claims are $28 million in road improvements he has provided.
The bill will be studied for a year by a subcommittee that will make a recommendation for the 1992 session.