Health - September 14, 2012

New York City bans large sugary beverages

Oversized soft drinks are the latest addition to things that are banned in New York City, along with smoking and trans fats. On Tuesday the New York City Board of Health approved a ban on selling large sized “sodas and other sugary drinks at restaurants, street carts and movie theaters.”  The ban is the first of its kind anywhere in the United States. Mayor Michael Bloomberg helped to head the effort, citing the increasing concern about the connection between sugary beverages and obesity in the US. The ban would limit certain beverages to 16 ounces, the current size of a small drink at McDonald’s (a large is 32 ounces) and goes into effect on March 12, 2013. The ban does not apply to diet soda and certain businesses, like convenience stores, will be exempt. Violators face a $200 fine. Opponents of the measure cite the restriction of personal freedom and loss of sales to small business in the city. The soft drink industry, who has been campaigning against the measure, vows to fight the ban.

Supreme Court Updates

One of the big stories this week was the Voter ID lawsuit finally being heard by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.  On Thursday, the PA Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the issue and asked a number of questions.  At one point Justice Debra McCloskey Todd, a Democrat, noted that “law imposes a new burden on longtime voters.”  The state’s attorney, Chief Deputy Attorney General John Knorr noted that he thought that burden was minimal; while Justice Todd replied that it would seem so as long as a voter already has an ID.  Justice Seamus McCaffery, Democrat, also noted that the law seemed to be a “political move” by the legislature.  Mr. Knorr argued that he believes the number of voters without proper ID is much lower than the reported 9% and that the state has made an effort to help those voters get the appropriate identification.  Attorney David Gersch represented the groups opposing the law.  He argued that requesting photo ID at the polls is not unconstitutional but the “law and its implementation make it unacceptably difficult…”  The split Supreme Court of three Republicans and three Democrats may issue a decision soon in order to resolve the matter prior to the election.  Should there be a tie the decision reverts to the lower court ruling that upheld the law.

The court also heard arguments in the redistricting case for the second time this year.  After the court ruled in January that the initial redrawing split up too many counties, municipalities and wards, the map was redrawn a second time.  Opponents argued that the Redistricting Commission focused too much on “where incumbents live instead of focusing on keeping towns whole;” they also argued that there were better alternatives to the second redrawing that would have left the map with fewer split.  Joseph Del Sole, attorney for the commission noted that the new plan split fewer neighborhoods than before.  The judges questioned the divisions themselves and what role “partisan breakdown among districts should play” in redistricting.