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California Bans Soda Taxes

State reps bow to pressure from Big Soda, ABA

SACRAMENTO -- So-called soda taxes took another hit June 28, when California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law banning municipalities in the state from adopting the obesity-fighting and revenue-earning initiative.

The ban, which prohibits taxes on sugary drinks, was rushed through the state legislature and to the governor's desk, according to reports. In exchange for the law, the nonalcohol-beverage industry, led by the Big Soda-backed American Beverage Association, is withdrawing a ballot measure that was slated for November. It would have raised the voter threshold to approve local sales tax increases on any item, not just soda taxes, from a majority vote to a supermajority (two-thirds) vote, according to a Reuters report.

Brown, a Democrat, called the ballot initiative an “abomination” and said mayors supported the compromise.

“The soda industry has deep pockets and used them to push the legislature into a no-win situation,” California state Sen. Bill Monning said before the vote, according to Reuters. Monning, a Democrat who has supported soda taxes as a way to combat chronic health problems such as obesity and diabetes, voted against the bill.

The Democratic-controlled state Senate and Assembly, however, voted in favor of the legislation.

Four California cities—Berkeley, Albany, Oakland and San Francisco—currently have soda taxes in place, each adding 1 cent per ounce to the costs of sweetened beverages. It's not clear how the new ban will affect those cities.

In 2016 and early 2017, the taxes were a growing trend across the U.S. in efforts to reduce obesity in children, as well as raise funding for pet projects. The change to less tax-friendly leadership in the White House, however, has limited expansion of the taxes since then.

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