ONLY DAYS AGO in Richmond, a singularly bad bit of legislation was left for dead - and for what any supporter of sound local government thought was good riddance. It was a pet bill of the well-financed lobby of interests that thrive on the proliferation of throwaway bottles and cans: an anti-homerule measure that would have prohibited localities from passing any deposit laws covering beverage containers. To the great relief of all who recognized that this special-interest legislation would yank away local authority in favor of more power to Richmond, a Senate committee rejected the bill by a 7-to-5 vote.
But the bill didn't die. Just like the tons of glass and metal you see along so many waysides, the throwaway lobbyists were everywhere; and they were working hard to resurrect their proposal. It now turns out that the committee never formally killed the bill; so the lobbyists are pushing for a vote to reconsider (translation: overturn) the committee action. Morever, if they can't pull off that maneuver, there are plans for another end-runk attempt, by hiding the proposal in another biill.
One such try already has been thwarted. That was an attempt inthe House to tack the proposal onto a Senate-passed litter-control bill sponsored by Sen. Frederick C. Boucher (D. abington). Fortunately, that proposed amendment was ruled not germane. But now the lobbyists are working up other language to sneak their proposal into Mr. Boucher's bill. To his credit, Mr. Boucher has indicated that if all else fails, he's prepared to withdraw his bill. We hope his colleagues in the assembly won't force this action. Meanwhile, there's yet another proposal moving along in the form of a resolution now before the Senate. It would express a sense of the state legislature that no more local deposit ordinances should be enacted. While that would not have the force of law, it certainly would have a chilling effect on any more local consideration of deposit ordinances.
As many of the legislators have emphasized, the issue here isn't just a dispute over how to deal with bottles and cans. It also involves a legislative attack on good local government, at a time when more and more counties in Virginia are sensing a need to act on their own to stem the tide of throwaways. Those localities have supported legislation calling for a statewide deposit bill; but in the absence of assembly passage of such a measure, they see local action as the necessary course. True, the latest proposed restrictions would exempt Fairfax and Loudoun counties - where local ordinances are already on the books; but those two counties should not be the only ones allowed to act. In that spirit, members of both houses should reject are attempts to prohibit local enactment of deposit ordinances.