Capitol Alert

California soda tax bill pulled without a vote

A rack of sodas
A rack of sodas AP

Elections come and go, legislative leaders rise and fall, but one constant remains in Sacramento: Soda taxes can’t get traction.

A bill to impose a two-cents-per-ounce tax on sugary beverages was pulled by its author ahead of its scheduled first committee vote on Tuesday, with Assemblyman Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica, concluding he lacked the votes. Assembly Bill 2782 is likely done for the year, the latest setback for a protracted but largely unsuccessful public health campaign.

Citing soaring obesity and diabetes rates, public health officials and physicians call the ubiquity of sugary drinks a leading menace to healthy living. Many evoke battles against the tobacco industry in warning that beverage companies are concealing the risk of their product.

Year after year, that campaign has met defeat in Sacramento. Bills to tax soft drinks have repeatedly failed, as have efforts to label drinks with warnings of health hazards. On the local level, Davis recently rejected a soda tax push.

Backers have faced heavy beverage industry opposition. The California Nevada Beverage Association, PepsiCo and Coca-Cola have spent at least $413,000 on lobbying since the start of 2015, according to records filed with the California secretary of state. The industry spent nearly $500,000 on campaign contributions during the last election cycle.

The California Chamber of Commerce also attacked AB 2782 on the grounds that it “threatens jobs in the beverage, retail and restaurant industries,” joining the California Restaurant Association in criticizing the bill.

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