Last year, then-Governor Brown surprised many by signing into law a fast-moving, 12-year ban on local soda taxes. Reports suggest that Brown had made the move to forestall a threatened voter initiative—backed by business groups—that would have made it significantly more difficult for counties and cities to impose any new local taxes.
State legislators seemed ready for a second round following the last election, armed with proposals including a 16-ounce cup-size limit for food service, warning labels on beverage packaging, restrictions on beverage displays near checkout lines, regulations on discount coupons, and a two-cent-per-ounce beverage tax. Some of these proposals were set aside early on, and the soda cup-size bill was pulled earlier in April, shortly before it was due for its first committee vote according to the San Francisco Chronicle—supposedly to be reconsidered in the next legislative session.
This week, the beverage tax was also set “on a slower track,” as described by the state legislator who had also presented the proposal in two previous sessions. The tax would have applied to sodas as well as to sweetened teas and sports and energy beverages. The proposal had the support of several medical associations and health advocacy groups, some of which have suggested they could back a voter initiative for a beverage tax.
According to the California Healthcare Foundation, industry groups spent nearly $12 million in advertising and lobbying efforts in the past two years, while nine out of ten legislators or members of their staff received some contribution, gift, or donation from top beverage industry groups or corporations.