With state legislative seasons wrapping up and official deadlines approaching, activists placed their hopes to end beverage freedom on a California soda tax proposal. Now, legislators have placed it in the “suspense file,” which effectively kills it. Proponents had hoped that the tax would reduce obesity, but there’s no evidence that it would. And it appears that attempts to hoodwink the public with promises of a “children’s health promotion fund” despite evidence that politicians are creative in their fund-avoidance schemes have failed as well.
Our Senior Research Analyst praised the legislators’ restraint, telling the U-T San Diego: “No one needs a government busybody telling them what they can eat and drink, whether it is through regulation or taxation […] In the end, this bill was a tax, plain and simple.” Proponents vow to resurrect it next year, but for now at least, Californians’ beverage freedom is safe. (If you choose to celebrate with your favorite fizzy drink, try not to spill it like this guy did after New York’s soda ban was overturned.)
Meanwhile, we’ve taken to the Press-Enterprise editorial pages to warn about a new and evolving threat to Californians’ choices. Earlier this session, a legislator introduced a bill that would allow state bureaucrats to restrict the sale of products that they deemed contributed to a “public health epidemic.” It’s a truly horrific idea that will do little more than empower anti-choice bureaucrats. Our Senior Research Analyst writes:
That mandate is so broad that presumably anything, from California cheese to Napa Valley wines to labor-saving products like dishwashers, could face regulation under this latest Sacramento scheme in the name of fighting obesity. But there’s no evidence that this concoction will actually do this.
Interestingly, the sponsor of the bill, Mark DeSaulnier, is a “repeat offender” in the anti-consumer choice campaign. In 2006 as a county supervisor, he tried to pass a regulation that would ban fast food restaurants in the name of obesity prevention (and possibly help his restaurant, which he later shuttered).
Fortunately, this bill does not appear at all likely to pass. That said, California consumer choice supporters should remain perpetually vigilant.