Health Care In The States

Mississippi Legislature Passes ‘Anti-Bloomberg’ Bill

By Jeffrey Hess, Mississippi Public Broadcasting

March 11th, 2013, 6:00 PM

Mayor Mike and his public health edicts are having a rough ride. On Monday, a state judge in Manhattan knocked down the rule capping soda sizes that Mayor Michael Bloomberg championed. (Here’s a PDF of that ruling.) Lawmakers in Mississippi are taking things one step further.

A bill on the governor’s desk would bar counties and towns from enacting rules that require calorie counts to be posted, that cap portion sizes, or that keep toys out of kids’ meals. “The Anti-Bloomberg Bill” garnered wide bipartisan support in both chambers of the legislature in Mississippi, the state with the highest rate of obesity in the nation.

The bill is expected to be signed by Gov. Phil Bryant, a Republican. It was the subject of intense lobbying by groups including  the restaurant association, the small business and beverage group and the chicken farmers’ lobby.

Mike Cashion, executive director the Mississippi Hospitality and Restaurant Association, says the bill is a direct reaction to Bloomberg-style government intervention in public health.

“If you look at how menus have changed, whether it be in fast food or family dining, you are seeing more and more healthy options,” Cashion said. “Not because of legislative mandates or regulator mandates but because of consumer demand. Our industry has always been one to respond to the marketplace.”

Rep. Gregory Holloway, a Democrat, ushered the popular bill through the state House. He says the goal is to create consistency in nutrition laws across the state. “We don’t want local municipalities experimenting with labeling of food and any organic agenda. We want that authority to rest with the Legislature,” Holloway said.

But the measure does have detractors in Mississippi: local politicians who say it steps on an ideal Mississippians hold dear — the right to govern themselves.

Chip Johnson, mayor of Hernando, Miss., near the Tennessee border, is no fan of a  soda ban, but he doesn’t like the anti-Bloomberg bill either.

Hernando has built biking and walking paths all over town and has received national attention for the work.  Johnson bristles at the Legislature’s efforts to dictate what he can do in pursuit of a healthier community, including  restricting the ability to put nutritional information on menus.

“You know what? If little Alligator, Mississippi, wanted to do that, that is up to the people that live there. It is not up to the state to tell the people at the local level what to do,” Johnson said. “They are using this to mask what the bill is really about, which is taking away home rule.”

Johnson says he resents that the measure even puts some restrictions on a town’s ability to zone where a restaurant can go.

Still, the bill passed the state Senate, 50-to-1, and the state House, 92-26.

This story is part of a collaboration that includes Mississippi Public Broadcasting, NPR and Kaiser Health News.

4 Responses to “Mississippi Legislature Passes ‘Anti-Bloomberg’ Bill”

  1. walter says:

    How could you possibly miss that? It’s Mississippi! How come I’m not shocked that the dopes in the Mississippi Legislature are doing their absolute best to make their state the least healthy state in the nation? According to a recent study of the most and least obese U.S. states, Mississippi ranks #1 as the most obese state in the nation. Don’t believe me? Then do a web search for these words…

    “Most and Least Obese U.S. States”

    Unbelievable! And the irony is, they keep electing these same idiots! That tells me one simple thing. Mississippi must also be #1 in illiteracy. Hillbillies! Nothing but drunken hillbillies!

  2. abk says:

    Unfortunately this far more sinister: These politicians are not exactly bumbling idiots, but are very aware of what they are doing and deliberate in their actions. This is nothing short of institutionalized corruption, as they are not doing this for the good, well being and happiness of their electorate

  3. Herb Goldberger says:

    Phil Ochs had it all correct in his song written about 50 years ago, “Here’s To The State Of Mississippi. He sang, “Mississippi find yourself another country to be part of ”
    One may seriously argue wether or not the state govt. has the right to force people to drink smaller sugar based drinks in a restaurant. But to actually have the audacity to attempt to pass legislation to prevent people to be aware of what they are consuming is absolute stupidity, and reeks of just callous disregard for the rights of the citizen of the state.
    Phil Ochs also sang this. “Corruption can be classic in the Mississippi way” How true.
    One wonders, how can a state government have representatives that are just so stupid that they would deprive it’s citizens of a means of selecting better health choices just so they could be in Mike Bloomberg’s face.

  4. chambersdocs says:

    @Herb Goldberger Phil Ochs was a visionary, Herb. Oh, and the state representatives are so stupid because the people are even more stupid. It’s insane what is happening around the country, where people are putting up with laws preventing other people from voting, laws which are clearly unconstitutional. It’s not enough that the bozos get elected by airheads whose opinions are fed to them by Faux News, oh no! The criminal class in suits and ties cannot be content with anything less than an electorate which is hand-picked, as close to illiterate as possible, as poor as possible without needing a gov’t handout, and willing to do and vote what and how they are told. This country is an empire in decline in some areas, and a shining beacon upon a hill in others. We have so much to give, but so little will to give it, it seems.