MOORLACH UPDATE — Sugary Drink Warnings — May 24, 2019

Let me start by wishing you a solemn Memorial Day weekend with friends and family as we remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice representing our nation in the armed services.

As one whose family personally benefited from those who served and died in the European front during World War II, I wish to thank the families who lost loved ones assisting in liberating the Netherlands from Nazi occupation.

We have finished a busy week of addressing some 300 bills. The LA Times Essential Politics electronic newsletter picked up on the debate of one bill requiring labeling on bottled beverages with a high sugar content. The wife of the bill’s author is a medical practitioner, so I appreciate the motivation for the legislation.

My opposition to SB 347 came from what I see as an imposition on bottlers that sell their product around the country. Requiring a special label just for California strikes me as anti-business, and the added costs will be passed on to this state’s consumers.

The good news is that we were able, again, to enjoy collegiality during debates on the Senate Floor this week. I speak to the few bills that peak my interest and try to persuade those on the other side of the aisle to reconsider their positions. Sometimes it comes close to working.

For some inside baseball, it is a rare occurrence when a bill does not pass in the first roll call vote. The author had to put the bill on call, allowing him some time to garner the necessary votes from his Democratic colleagues before the close of the day. Democrats rarely vote against a fellow Democrat’s bill, but in this case, two did. And five laid off of the bill by abstaining, which is the customary way for Democrats to vote in opposition. Not one Republican voted for the bill. So, with 28 Democrats, minus two voting against and five laying off, gets you to 21. That’s called passing by the skin of one’s teeth.

On a personal note, my last bill to be heard on the Floor before the deadline, SB 598, passed with a unanimous roll call of 38 votes (there are currently 2 vacant Senate seats which will be filled after their June 4 General Special Elections) (see MOORLACH UPDATE — House of Origin Deadline — May 23, 2019).

Also, for the third year in a row, I’ve been appointed to the Budget Conference Committee. Consequently, if my life wasn’t busy enough, it will be super packed between now and June 15th, the deadline for the annual budget’s passage.

A bill to put health warnings on soda and sugary drinks advances in California

By Patrick McGreevy

California lawmakers on Thursday advanced the last major surviving bill in a package aimed at reducing consumption of sodas, approving a measure that would require health warning labels on sugary drinks.

The measure by Sen. Bill Monning (D-Carmel) received a bare majority of votes even though some Democrats withheld votes while others in the majority party joined Republicans in opposition.

The latest action follows this year’s shelving of measures that would have put a tax on soda and banned “Big Gulp”-style sodas in an effort to address health risks including obesity and diabetes that are posed by sugary drinks.

“They represent the single leading source of increased bad calories that are being promoted in our communities and pushed on communities of color,” Monning said during the floor debate, citing a “national epidemic” of diabetes.

Senate Bill 347, which goes to the Assembly next, would require labels on drinks with added caloric sweeteners that contain 75 calories or more per 12 fluid ounces.

The label on container would say: “STATE OF CALIFORNIA SAFETY WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) may contribute to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and tooth decay.”

Monning amended the bill to exempt flavored milk drinks, but said it would apply to sport teas and energy drinks that have significant sugar.

Those who voted against the measure included Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa), who said it would add to the cost of doing business in California and should be addressed nationally to avoid differing rules by state.

“Making California an outlier will make it difficult for businesses that sell nationally,” Moorlach told his colleagues.

Monning said his bill, which is similar to one that failed last year, would just allow consumers to make informed choices.

The American Beverage Assn. opposed the bill with a strong push by lobbyists and while making major political contributions to state lawmakers.

The industry argued that the bill and its health impact claims went too far.

“There are already more effective ways to help people manage their overall sugar consumption rather than through mandatory and misleading messages,” said Steven Maviglio, a spokesman for the American Beverage Assn.

Monning cited a study by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that said obesity affected about 93.3 million of adults in 2016, and the estimated annual medical cost of obesity in the United States was $147 billion in 2008 U.S. dollars.

Supporters of the bill included Sen. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento), a pediatrician, who said sugary drinks are a major contributor to medical ailments.

“We are seeing rising rates of diabetes,” Pan said during the floor debate. “We need to address this public health crisis.”

Legislators are also still considering a bill that would bar the soda industry from offering subsidies including discount coupons that encourage soda consumption.


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