Filed Under:

Soda Wars Backlash: Mississippi Passes 'Anti-Bloomberg' Bill

Play associated audio

Mayor Mike and his public health edicts are having a rough ride.

On Monday, a state judge in Manhattan struck down New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's rule capping soda sizes. And lawmakers in Mississippi are taking the backlash against government regulation on food marketing one step further.

A bill now on the governor's desk would bar counties and towns from enacting rules that require calorie counts to be posted, that cap portion sizes, or that keep toys out of kids' meals. "The Anti-Bloomberg Bill" garnered wide bipartisan support in both chambers of the legislature in a state where one in three adults is obese, the highest rate in the nation.

The bill is expected to be signed by Gov. Phil Bryant, a Republican. It was the subject of intense lobbying by groups including the restaurant association, the small business and beverage group, and the chicken farmers' lobby.

Mike Cashion, executive director the Mississippi Hospitality and Restaurant Association, says the bill is a direct reaction to Bloomberg-style government intervention in public health.

"If you look at how menus have changed, whether it be in fast food or family dining, you are seeing more and more healthy options," Cashion says. "Not because of legislative mandates or regulatory mandates, but because of consumer demand. Our industry has always been one to respond to the marketplace."

Rep. Gregory Holloway, a Democrat, ushered the popular bill through the state House. He says the goal is to create consistency in nutrition laws across the state. "We don't want local municipalities experimenting with labeling of foods and any organic agenda. We want that authority to rest with the legislature," Holloway says.

But the measure does have detractors in Mississippi: local politicians who say it steps on an ideal Mississippians hold dear — the ability to govern themselves.

Chip Johnson, mayor of Hernando, Miss., near the Tennessee border, is no fan of a soda ban, but he doesn't like the anti-Bloomberg bill, either.

Hernando has built biking and walking paths all over town, and has received national attention for the work. Johnson bristles at the legislature's efforts to dictate what he can do in pursuit of a healthier community, including restricting the ability to put nutritional information on menus.

"You know what? If little Alligator, Miss., wanted to do that, that's up to the people that live there. It is not up to the state to tell the people at the local level what to do," Johnson says. "They're just using this to mask what the bill is really about, which is about taking away home rule."

Johnson says he resents that the measure even puts some restrictions on a town's ability to zone where a restaurant can go.

Still, the bill passed the state Senate, 50-1, and the state House, 92-26.

This piece is part of a partnership of NPR, Mississippi Public Broadcasting, and Kaiser Health News.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Major Bambi: Meet The Marine Who Was Disney's Famous Fawn

A gritty Marine, Donnie Dunagan fought in the Vietnam War and earned decorations for his service. But all his life, there was one thing this commander could never escape: He was the voice of Bambi.
NPR

Humans Aren't The Only Ones To Go Ape Over Diets: Chimps Detox, Too

A group of Ugandan chimps has found a great way to boost their mineral intake and neutralize bitter compounds in their diet: by eating clay.
WAMU 88.5

The Politics Hour - July 31, 2015

Join us for our weekly review of the politics, policies, and personalities of the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.

NPR

In Michigan, A Testing Ground For A Future Of Driverless Cars

Automakers and researchers are using a 32-acre fake city at the University of Michigan to simulate a real-world environment for autonomous vehicles. How will such cars affect urban planning?

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.