Assm. Jim Wood — Humboldt’s Assemblymember — is one of many lawmakers who are hopping mad at the soda industry today, after he and others “reluctantly” agreed to support a bill that would bar local governments from taxing sugary beverages at least until the year 2031.

The bill, which advanced quickly through the legislature this week, was a compromise deal with the industry that was designed to stave off a soda-funded statewide initiative on the matter. (More from the Los Angeles Times here.) 

In the speech above, delivered in the Assembly today, Wood — a practising dentist before he was elected to state office — called the industry’s actions “extortion,” and with the bill’s passage called upon the soda industry to put the money it had set aside for the initiative to good use.

“I challenge the soda industry, which has compiled billions of dollars into this campaign initiative account, to give it back to communities for public health programs,” he said. Don’t stick it back in your pockets and don’t give it back to your shareholders. Give it back to communities.”

Press release from Assm. Jim Wood’s office below:

Today the Assembly and Senate voted on a budget bill, AB 1838, which was handed off to them as the result of an outside deal struck between the beverage industry and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

“Extortion is defined as the practice of obtaining something through force or threats,” said Assemblymember Jim Wood (D-Santa Rosa). “That’s what’s happening this week and the bad actors are the beverage industry. And the way they’re doing it is outrageous.”

This is one of many comments Wood made on the Assembly Floor. His entire speech can be found here.

The Tax Fairness, Transparency and Accountability Act of 2018, an initiative that has qualified for the November ballot, and sponsored by the beverage industry, would make it very difficult for local governments to increase taxes and fees by requiring them to pass by a two-thirds majority.

“Many members of SEIU who are employed by local governments are the same people who understand the importance of adequately funding local services like park districts, public transportation, after-school programs and public libraries and they saw this initiative as a threat to the work they do and the quality of life in their communities,” said Wood. “As a result, they supported a legislative fix struck with the beverage industry that would put a 12-year moratorium specifically on local taxes or fees on soda, food packaging, wrapping and containers in exchange for the industry dropping the initiative.”

Local governments, with the support of its voters and public health advocates, have successfully enacted soda taxes in several California communities and those taxes are working – soda consumption is down. “As a dentist, I know how damaging soda is to a person’s oral health and overall health and the cost to our health care system,” said Wood. “Because these efforts have been so successful, the beverage industry has come in, full force, to stop this forward progress by threatening labor and forcing them to take sides, and that’s exactly what they’re doing.”

With the leaders in both the Senate and Assembly voicing their support, the bill passed and was sent immediately to the Governor, fulfilling the deal, and pulling the initiative off the November ballot.

“Like I said, it’s outrageous,” Wood stated.