Capitol Alert

AM Alert: California soda tax bubbles up again

Sodas on Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014.
Sodas on Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014. AP

Sugary beverages have become public enemy #1 for many health advocates.

Doctors and public health officials warn that sweetened drinks fuel a panoply of health problems like obesity and diabetes, particularly among kids and people of color. But their fervor has not translated into political action. Despite polling showing voters favor taxing soda or affixing warning labels, such policies have repeatedly stalled in Sacramento and on locally, with the exception of Berkeley. The beverage industry denounces efforts to control consumers, and a certain former big city mayor’s legacy has become a cautionary tale for many.

Undeterred, lawmakers are trying again this year. Assemblymen Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica, Jim Wood, D-Healdsburg, will be announcing legislation to impose a two-cent-per-ounce tax at an 11 a.m. press conference in room 1190 alongside medical and public health professionals today. Given Wood’s background, you can probably count on hearing about soda and tooth decay.

VIDEO OF THE DAY: Vaping Jezus sayeth electronic cigarettes are not tobacco.

BUDGETING: In his inauguration speech yesterday, Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Paramount, spoke of bolstering assistance programs and combating poverty. Today a passel of public officials will be discussing anti-poverty efforts during a California Budget & Policy Center confab at the Sacramento Convention Center. A morning panel will feature Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, former Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, and Treasurer John Chiang.

COASTING: In its first public meeting since the Charles Lester showdown, the California Coastal Commission will be gathering in Santa Monica today to consider appointing an interim director and launching the search for a new executive director. That could be an extended process if Bloom (a former commissioner) was right in wondering, after the nationally covered Lester fracas, “who would want to take this this job?”

HEAR US: Multiple informational hearings today will preview looming policy fights. The Senate Transportation and Housing Committee will be talking affordable housing at 2:30 in room 2040; the Senate Health Committee will discuss access to mental healthcare at 1:30 p.m. in room 3191; and the Assembly Budget public safety subcommittee at 1:30 p.m. in room 437 will be talking about jail construction and Proposition 47 savings, both flashpoints for criminal justice reform advocates.

TESTED: As California schools transition to an era of the Common Core and the Local Control Funding Formula, policymakers are trying to figure out how to evaluate schools and students. A California State Board of Education meeting at 1430 N Street today will examine some options, from a catch-all assessment system to more specific science standards, as well as how to assess schools themselves. Board members will also hear about a survey of educators on how they’re adapting to Common Core so far. Starting at 8:30 a.m.

Jeremy B. White: 916-326-5543, @CapitolAlert