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Californians For Less Soda Group Applauds Court Ruling

The Californians for Less Soda Coalition applauds the Sacramento Superior Court’s ruling on Oct. 1 eliminating the financial threat to a cities’ pursuit of local sugary drink taxes. This ruling enables voters to decide whether such taxes are appropriate for their community without the fear of financial ruin for their city.

The ruling is the result of a lawsuit filed in 2020 by Jarvis, Fay & Gibson, LLP, on behalf of Cultiva La Salud, an organization dedicated to creating health equity in the San Joaquin Valley, and Martine Watkins, a resident of Santa Cruz who serves as a member of the Santa Cruz City Council. The lawsuit was supported by ChangeLab Solutions and the American Heart Association.

The lawsuit contended that the current state statute, which prohibits cities from adopting taxes on sodas and other sugary drinks for more than a decade, oversteps its bounds by unlawfully penalizing charter cities that exercise their constitutionally protected authority to manage their municipal affairs, including taxation. (Many of California’s largest cities are charter cities.) A provision in the statute penalizes a charter city that lawfully enacts a sugary drink tax by effectively taking away that city’s sales tax revenue. The ruling removes the possibility that a charter city could lose its sales tax revenues should it choose to move forward with a sugary drink tax.

The lawsuit is consistent with the Coalition’s goal to overturn AB 1838, which was passed in 2018 in what was described by the Sacramento Bee as Big Soda’s “extortion” of the California State Legislature that prohibits cities from adopting voter approved taxes on sodas and other sugary drinks until 2031.

“I am extremely grateful to the Sacramento County Superior Court for ruling in favor of citizens across our state and declaring loud and clear that special interests have no business dictating policy to our cities. This ruling brings us one step closer to giving power back to cities that want to improve the health of their residents while increasing revenues. I am thankful for the courage of Cultiva La Salud and Martine Watkins and the hard work of ChangeLab Solutions, The American Heart Association, and the entire legal team that worked tirelessly on this case,” said Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian (Van Nuys), the author of AB 1163 which aims to overturn AB 1838’s ban on local sugary drink taxes.

California voters who passed soda taxes in their cities have improved the health of their residents and given their cities millions of dollars in revenue available to stave off budget cuts due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the American Heart Association, a Coalition member, sugar sweetened beverages including soft drinks, sports drinks, and fruit drinks are the main sources of added sugars in Americans’ diets. Frequently drinking sugar-sweetened drinks, such as sodas and sports drinks, was associated with an increased risk of death from cardiovascular diseases and, to a lesser extent, cancers.

The Californians for Less Soda Coalition supports local municipalities’ ability to allow voters to decide if a tax on sugary drinks is best for the health of their residents.

The Californians for Less Soda Coalition member organizations include: American Heart Association; American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network; American Diabetes Association; Asian Pacific Partners for Empowerment, Advocacy and Leadership; California Black Health Network; California Dental Association; California Health+ Advocates; California State Alliance of YMCAs; Latino Coalition for a Healthy California; The Praxis Project; Public Health Advocates; Public Health Institute; Roots of Change; Social Justice Learning Institute.