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Connecticut Senate Rules Against Soda Sales in Schools But Battle Expected

Posted Dec 18 2008 8:13pm

Hurrah for the Connecticut Senate! They've cast the first votes to boot soda out of schools there. But, WAIT a minute. I'm being way too optimistic. Apparently, there's a big battle ahead to get the bill passed. Here's the story:

The Democratic-controlled Senate voted 24 to 8 Thursday to ban soda sales in Connecticut's schools in an effort to reduce childhood obesity, according to accounts in the The New York Times and the Hartford Courant.

Next up, the state's House of Representatives needs to vote on it, but now apparently it's going to be a tough uphill battle. The AP quoted Senate President Pro Tem Donald Williams, D-Brooklyn, telling reporters that he expects "hand-to-hand combat" over the legislation. (See the Senate Democratic leadership's press release about this.)

Art_williams_infwilliams What's more, the soda companies are getting ready for a big fight to prevent the bill's passage. In fact, Christopher Keating, the Courant's Capitol Bureau Chief, reported:

"Williams describes the bitter clash as a "David-vs.-Goliath" battle because the soda companies have hired two of the most influential lobbying firms at the Capitol: Sullivan & LeShane for Coca-Cola and Gaffney Bennett for Pepsi."

As Williams said in the Senate press release:

"The soda and junk food industries spent more than $250,000 to kill this bill last year and there is no reason to believe they'll stop the flood of cash for lobbyists trying to kill this measure, which addresses the childhood obesity epidemic we are facing.

"We have the facts and the overwhelming scientific evidence on our side, and we will continue to do everything we can to get this information out. Parents and the PTAs across the state, the state's school superintendents, the School Nutrition Association of Connecticut and pediatricians all support this bill. 68% of the people of Connecticut support banning soda from our schools."

The idea of the bill is promising. Not only would it be taboo to sell regular or diet soda in schools, but sports drinks like Gatorade and Powerade would get the boot, too. Unfortunately, there's an exception: These drinks could be sold at concession stands during school-sponsored events after school and on weekends. (Connecticut schools need to talk to other schools around the country, who use non-junk food ways to raise needed funds.)

If passed, the legislation would allow school vending machines and stores to sell low-fat and nonfat milk, soy or rice milk, and 100 percent fruit and vegetable drinks. What's more, as the AP notes, this Connecticut bill, if enacted, would be "among the most sweeping in the nation."

Encouraging as all that may seem, the bill will require intense lobbying, as the Hartford Courant pointed out.

If you live in Connecticut, urge your representatives in the House of Representatives to vote for this bill.

Here's how to contact members of the Connecticut Senate. (Remember, they've already voted for the bill.)

Also, make a point to write to State Sen. Williams and applaud him for his efforts to help Connecticut's children. (Just check out some of the exciting things he's doing.) Also, see this interesting item about Coca-Cola's unconscionable practices.

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