February 7, 2016

Lawmakers propose ban on junk food bans

Wisconsin communities would be stopped from creating their own laws against the sale of junk food and sugary drinks, under language added to the proposed state budget Thursday by the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee.

The proposal would prohibit municipal and county governments from enacting ordinances that ban the sale of food or nonalcoholic beverages based on number of calories, portion size, or other nutritional criteria.

The measure, introduced by state Representative Pat Strachota (R-West Bend) and Senator Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin), is aimed at preventing communities in Wisconsin from adopting laws similar to one passed in New York City that prohibited the sale of large soft drinks. While no local governments in Wisconsin have adopted a similar ordinance, Strachota says some communities have been working on them.

Democrats criticized the proposal as running counter to a bill passed by the state Assembly earlier this week, which requires those receiving state FoodShares assistance to spend at least two-thirds of their benefits on healthy foods. State Representative Cory Mason (D-Racine) called the GOP-backed plan a “contradiction” that shows it’s fine to dictate what choices “poor people” make, but limits any other conversation about health eating choices.

Republicans defended the plan, arguing local government should not be telling people how they can spend their own money.

The provision will be part of the overall state budget bill, which lawmakers are expected to consider in June.

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