Legislation that would require California to put warning labels on soda — equivalent to the Surgeon General’s warning on a pack of cigarettes — was stalled in an Assembly yesterday. That’s a good thing.
Why? Because Democrats just passed another balanced, on-time budget. They’ve done a remarkable job of restraining themselves from passing boatloads of new taxes and new spending programs. If it wasn’t for the allegations of corruptions to a handful of members, the Legislature’s approval ratings would likely have continued to climb, as Legislative Democrats have done an excellent job of proving they can be responsible with the large majorities they have in both Houses
Yet every year, along comes a bill that threatens to unravel the progress legislative Democrats have made with improving their brand. This year that bill is SB 1000, which is capturing national and local press attention like few others have this session.
A couple words of disclosure: I rarely drink soda. I’m on the board of a local food co-op that preaches smart eating. And I’m helping the American Beverage Association on this bill because I believe it is without merit.
The reason is simple: as the sponsors of the bill admitted in POLITICO a few weeks ago, the legislation will have no impacts on health of any Californians. It’s part of a “movement” by professional anti-soda crusaders to beat back the soda industry, plain and simple.
Read the testimony from the Senate hearings on the legislation. Health advocates make a strong case that soda isn’t particularly good for you. Californians get that. But then they make a choice to have a can on a plane, or with their lunch, because … well, because they can.
Health advocates have made an excellent effort of educating the public in recent years about the ill effects of too much sugar., and its connection to soda. In Sacramento, Regional Transit buses are plastered with anti-soda messages. In doctors offices and in schools, families and children are told to reduce their sugar intake — not just from soda, but from a wide array of sugary foods. That’s a good thing.
But a warning label that does nothing but send a message? There’s no proof anywhere that it has an effect; as mentioned earlier, even its proponents, in a delicious display of candor, say that it doesn’t.
Which is why this bill feeds straight into the message of Legislative critics when they say this legislation is another example of the “Nanny State” bills that Legislative Democrats formerly embraced but have recently wisely declined to pursue.
I am sure that Senator Bill Monning, the author of the bill, believes that a soda warning label is the right thing to do, and I respect him for that. But on its merits, the bill doesn’t warrant approval. And it will certainly overshadow the good work Legislative Democrats are doing in getting things done on REAL health issues — like MediCal expansion, supporting the implementation of Obamacare, and strengthening the health safety net.
Assembly Democrats should think twice about taking up this bill again, and instead return to the discipline they’ve exhibited in killing legislation that does nothing but grab headlines.