Capitol Alert AM Newsletter

Return of the soda tax + Water bill takes on Cadiz + Canada-California trade

State Sen. Bill Monning has spent years fighting Big Soda. His latest bill would regulate the beverages offered in special kids’ meals. It made it through the Legislature and is on the governor’s desk.
State Sen. Bill Monning has spent years fighting Big Soda. His latest bill would regulate the beverages offered in special kids’ meals. It made it through the Legislature and is on the governor’s desk. AP

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Deadline: Lawmakers have two more days to file legislation.


I’m from the Midwest, and we say “pop.” But regardless of what you call it...

The American Beverage Association is sounding the alarm on a potential rebirth of local soda taxes within a bundle of bills lawmakers are expected to discuss at a press conference today. If the taxes return, expect another fiery debate between public health groups and the ABA.

“Not only are those taxes not welcomed by the people of California, but repeated analysis confirms that these types of regressive taxes place an unfair burden on working families and neighborhood businesses already struggling with the state’s high cost of living,” the ABA said in a statement.

After a lengthy legislative fight last year, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a measure meant to settle a feud between the ABA and public health groups. It banned cities and counties from imposing local taxes on groceries — including beverages like soda and sugary drinks.

In return, the ABA dropped its campaign for an initiative that would have made it more difficult for local governments to raise taxes.

The ABA sought the ban after a handful of California cities, including Berkeley, adopted taxes on soda. It’s unclear how the lawmakers plan to skirt around the law if they introduce a bill to enable new soda taxes.

According to a David Binder Research Survey, 44 percent of likely California voters strongly support the deal that Brown signed. But that hasn’t stopped lawmakers and public health advocates from pressing for policies that draw attention to health risks associated with sugary drinks.

Assembly members Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica, Rob Bonta, D-Alameda, David Chiu, D-San Francisco, Buffy Wicks, D-Oakland, and state Sen. Bill Monning, D-Carmel, will announce a package of legislation that Bonta’s office said helps “raise awareness, reduce consumption and provide revenue to offset the costs to our health care system from the overconsumption of sugar-laden sodas like Coke and Pepsi, and other sugary drinks.”

The press conference is scheduled for 11:00 a.m. today at the Capitol in room 317.


Sen. Richard Roth, D-Riverside, and Assemblywoman Laura Friedman, D-Glendale, reintroduced a bill on Friday that questions the Cadiz Water Project, which aims to sustainably combat evaporating water in the Mojave Desert.

As outlined on Cadiz’s website, the project complied with a California Environmental Quality Act review process administered by the Santa Margarita Water District. It approved the project to create a new water supply that could service 400,000 people by drawing up to 50,000 acre-feet of water per year from an underground aquifer.

But Roth said that the study clearing the project as environmentally safe is questionable at best and that there’s a great concern about how much water can be pumped sustainably from an aquifer without negatively affecting the wildlife and ecosystems of the Mojave.

“As conversations continue, the indisputable point remains: the scientific review must be completed and the science reconciled,” said Roth. “We can and should do it quickly, but it must be done.”

President Barack Obama halted the project in 2015, but President Donald Trump authorized Cadiz to proceed.

Roth’s Senate Bill 307 is the third legislative attempt to legally scrutinize Cadiz and take a deeper look at some of the stakeholders in the project, including the Trump administration and the Santa Margarita Water District. The senator lost a long battle to get similar legislation passed last year after Friedman’s bill died earlier in the same session.

Roth and Friedman in the past had support from Democratic heavyweights like U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, former Gov. Brown and, when he was lieutenant governor, Gavin Newsom.

However, Cadiz is prepared to fight back, saying that the project has successfully completed robust environmental reviews and will create 5,900 new jobs in building a water transportation system that serves Southern California communities.

“Cadiz is and has always been committed to making reliable, clean drinking water available to Southern California in a safe, sustainable way,” Cadiz released in a statement on Friday in response to SB 307, continuing that it has “followed the law to develop a project that can be part of the solution to California’s long-term water challenges.”


Consul generals for Canada and Mexico are joining California Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Allan Zaremberg today for a panel on the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. The new trade arrangement came from a year of negotiations after Trump disregarded the former North American Free Trade Agreement as the “worst deal ever made.”

Amid the settling in to a new agreement, Canada wants to send a clear message: We love you California. As San Francisco’s Consul General of Canada Rana Sarkar told The Sacramento Bee, “Canadians often fly under the radar, but we are significant partners with the state of California.”

According to Global Affairs Canada, California exports $16.8 billion in goods to its northern neighbor annually, with tech and agriculture products accounting for close to $6 billion of that budget. California imports $28.7 billion from Canada per year, with the automobile industry accounting for a whopping $18 billion of that total.

Sarkar also underscored California and Canada’s unique parallels, saying that the two “have a lot to learn from each other” in regards to tech, the cannabis industry, combating the opioid crisis and addressing homelessness.

The event is scheduled today for 12:45 p.m. at the CalChamber’s 1215 K Street office, 14th floor.


It’s a different kind of game.

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla is visiting Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo today to award the school for its victory in the first California Ballot Bowl. The school registered 3,178 students last year during a statewide effort to increase voter participation among university and California students. Congrats Cal Poly!


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Hannah Wiley joined The Bee as a legislative reporter in 2019. She produces the morning newsletter for Capitol Alert and previously reported on immigration, education and criminal justice. She’s a Chicago-area native and a graduate of Saint Louis University and Northwestern.