Rell Reaches Compromise On Proposal To Ban Soft Drinks, Restrict Junk Food In Schools
February 2, 2006
By MARK PAZNIOKAS, Courant Staff Writer
A compromise by Republican Gov. M.
Jodi Rell and the Senate's top Democrat could yield some of the
nation's strongest restrictions on junk food in public schools -
one of last year's most contentious legislative issues.
Senate President Pro Tem Donald E.
Williams Jr., D-Brooklyn, and the Rell administration announced
an effort Wednesday to ban soda and encourage healthier snacks and
meals in schools.
The bill mandates the soda ban and
encourages other changes by tripling the current nickel-per-meal
school lunch subsidy for districts that adhere to new state nutrition
"What we have today to announce
is the best and the strongest bill in terms of standards for nutritious
beverages in the country," Williams said. "We have a complete
ban on soda from high school, middle school and elementary school."
The bill will be introduced in the
three-month legislative session that opens next Wednesday and ends
Williams said that Connecticut would
be the first state to ban soda from all public schools. Other states
have limited bans.
Rell's endorsement defuses a potential
campaign issue - her veto of a school nutrition bill last year,
which prompted accusations from child advocates that she had sided
with the beverage and snack industry at the expense of child nutrition.
The governor framed her veto as a defense
of local control of schools, a reaction to a requirement that every
elementary school provide at least 20 minutes for recess to encourage
exercise. The recess requirement is absent from the new bill.
The junk-food legislation unexpectedly
became one of last year's most heavily lobbied and bitterly debated
The Senate passed the bill, 24-12.
It cleared the House on an 88-55 vote, but only after Republicans
mounted an eight-hour filibuster. Soda and snack-food companies
spent $250,000 lobbying against the bill, which they feared would
set a national precedent, Williams said.
Coke and Pepsi are represented at the
state Capitol by Sullivan & LeShane and Gaffney Bennett, two
of the state's top-billing lobbying firms.
Jay Malcynsky of Gaffney Bennett declined
to comment Wednesday, saying that he needed to review the bill and
consult his client, Pepsi. Sullivan & LeShane could not be reached
Last year, Williams amended his bill
to allow the sale of diet soda to blunt opposition. The new bill
would impose a total ban during the school day on the sale of soda
and sports drinks. School cafeterias and vending machines would
be limited to the sale of water, low-fat or skim milk, non-dairy
milk and juice.
The bill would not affect meals offered
as part of the federally funded school lunch program, but it would
encourage schools to limit a la carte offerings to state-approved,
Soda still could be sold by concessionaires
at after-school events.
Rell did not attend a late-afternoon
press conference announcing the compromise, but she was represented
by her education commissioner, Betty J. Sternberg, who endorsed
the measure without reservation.
"To say it succinctly, healthy
kids are smart kids," Sternberg said. "If we have healthy
youngsters, that provides the foundation for having high-achieving
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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