AB 1357: It Doesn’t End Here!

No se acaba aqui!  It doesn’t end here!

We are disappointed with the outcome of yesterday’s Assembly Health Committee vote on AB 1357 (Bloom): Children & Family Health Promotion Program. Some of our key legislators chose to silence the discussion of how to address California’s diabetes crisis by voting no or abstaining on AB 1357 when it was time for action, for leadership!

Going into Monday night, the night before the hearing, we had 10 members that were highly likelies; that we expected would vote “Aye.” We had repeatedly visited with their offices to make sure they had all the information they needed, that we could counter any misleading information the beverage industry lobbyists were dropping off. We had their constituents calling their offices to shore them up, but overnight, something happened and we lost two of the key legislators whose support brought two others. As many of you know, in politics we do not usually know precisely what happens to cause a legislator to change their minds and “peel off.” But to have the ground shift on you like this overnight gives you perspective on the power of our opponent.

It goes without saying that we at Latino Coalition for a Healthy California remain committed to continue working to curtail the diabetes crisis in our communities; we will not stop until we see real commitment and leadership at the state level to address this regressive disease that is devastating our communities. It is a crime that California currently spends less than 3 cents per person per year on diabetes prevention when we have reached a public health crisis with this disease.SodaSugar_Purchased
Yesterday afternoon we heard from the majority of legislators on the Assembly Health Committee that they felt that AB 1357 is not the right approach to deal with type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and dental disease. We, however, remain adamant that an AB 1357-type approach is the only way to comprehensively deal with our diabetes crisis in California. With the $3 billion per year we anticipated that would be raised by a 2 cent per ounce health impact fee on sugary drinks distributed in our state, we were going to invest in community, tribal, clinic, and school-based interventions to bring nutrition education, physical activity programs, farm to fork, farm to school, farm to urban, hydration stations in schools, and oral health promotion. All of these resources were going to be focused on the state’s zip codes exhibiting the highest rates of diabetes. With diabetes so prevalent, we cannot wait. Inaction is not acceptable.

Some positives that we can take away with us:

  • Industry’s testimony continues to use the messaging that focuses on the energy content of a calorie, thoroughly minimizing how different types of calories affect metabolism differently.
  • Our legislators did not deny the causal link that Drs. Stanhope (UC Davis), Shillinger (UCSF) and Schnmidt (UCSF) highlighted between sugar and disease. Quoting Dr. Laura Schmidt–“We now know conclusively that sugar not only makes you fat, it makes you sick.”
  • In California’s legislative context, we need to figure out how to break the bonds between industry and the legislators in Assembly Health (oh, the irony!) that continue to kill any bills that try and hold the beverage industry accountable for selling their poisons to our kids.
  • Our national level civil rights organizations continue to be silent on this issue, or worse, partner with industry to engage in activities and programs designed to give an undeserved health halo to those who advertise and sell our kids misery.

I’m sure that as we continue to process the events from the past two days more epiphanies will be appended to this “day-after assessment.”

Thank you to Asm. Richard Bloom for carrying the bill, and also to Asms. David Chiu and Anthony Rendon for co-authoring, and Asms. Rob Bonta, Susan Bonilla, David Chiu, Tony Thurmond, Adrin Nazarian, and Jim Wood for their votes in favor. I also want to thank our coalition partners and bill co-sponsors for all their work and commitment including the California Rural Indian Health Board, Asian Pacific Partners for Empowerment, Advocacy and Leadership, Urban League of Los Angeles, Council of Black Nurses of Los Angeles, American Heart Association, California Dental Association, California Primary Care Association, Roots of Change/Public Health Institute, and 100 Black Men of Orange and Sacramento Counties.

I also want to thank all of the supporters who not only showed up to voice their support at the hearing, but those who also loaned their advocates inside the Capitol to this cause.

Lastly I also want to express how proud I am of LCHC’s staff, our board members, our statewide networks, and our advocate partners at Hernandez Strategies who stepped up and gave so much to this effort.  We have been in an “all hands on deck status” for far too long.

We do this work, because we are tired of burying our family members. This effort is very real to us–we live with the consequences of diabetes every day. And this is why we will be back.

Esto no se acaba aqui! This doesn’t end here!