I’ve written before about Sacramento’s efforts to try and dictate how people live their lives through over-reaching legislation.
On Thursday, we saw that some Sacramento liberals are taking things a step further, telling California’s parents how they should raise their children.
Senate Bill 1192, by Sen. Bill Monning, D-Santa Cruz, would require restaurants selling children’s meals to make the default beverage water, milk, or sparkling water – essentially prohibiting soda and juice from being included in children’s meals. Violations would result in fines of as much as $500 per incident for repeated violations.
The bill’s floor manager, Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, said that “kids’ meals shouldn’t come with a side order of diabetes, obesity, or cardiovascular disease.”
Clever line, but it’s not the job of McCarty or other legislators to try and raise the state’s children.
There’s no question that water or milk are healthier and better for kids than soda or juice. But the debate over SB 1192 isn’t really about that. It’s about the Legislature trying to take away the freedom for Californians to choose to serve their kids a legal food product that’s as American as apple pie.
(Perhaps I should not use that analogy as I don’t want to give the Legislature more ideas for good-tasting food to outlaw!)
When parents order a meal for their kids, they are making a free choice. Armed with readily-available nutritional information, California’s parents are perfectly capable of making informed food choices for themselves and their kids. They don’t need state lawmakers looking over their shoulder and second guessing their parenting.
Worse, it’s another meaningless effort. While SB 1192 would outlaw restaurants from making soda or juice the default beverage in a children’s meal, parents could still choose to order either beverage for their kids.
What SB 1192 is really about is payback to the soda industry for playing hardball politics before the Legislature’s summer recess. Armed with a qualified state ballot measure that would change the threshold for passing local sales tax increases to a two-thirds vote, they forced angry lawmakers to enact a soda tax moratorium. The Legislature didn’t like being pushed around, and now they’re settling the score with this bill.
Speaking on the bill, Assemblyman Matthew Harper, R-Huntington Beach, asked – tongue firmly planted in cheek – what was next. “Are we going to insist that you have to have kale in your salad unless you specifically ask otherwise?”
Don’t laugh, because they might. While today’s enemy is soda, tomorrow it could be romaine lettuce if it becomes the next politically-incorrect food or industry lawmakers want to target.
With so many more pressing problems facing California today, the Legislature would be wise to keep its nose out of people’s parenting decisions and stop infringing on the freedom of Californians to freely choose what they or their children eat.
Tim Anaya is communications director for the Pacific Research Institute.