Bill to limit access to snacks in school fails

Effort to install timers on vending machines defeated in Senate vote

General Assembly

March 18, 2004|By Kimberly A.C. Wilson | Kimberly A.C. Wilson,SUN STAFF

The exhale of freshly opened soda cans and the crinkle of potato chip bags will continue to drift along the hallways of Maryland's public schools after legislation aimed at tightening access to high-fat snacks and sugary sodas died yesterday in the state Senate.

Sen. Paul G. Pinsky, a Prince George's County Democrat and former history teacher, fought hard for the bill during a half-hour of debate, telling fellow lawmakers that limiting vending machine use in schools would be in keeping with a growing national effort to curb obesity. That trend includes recent studies showing an alarming increase in obesity among America's youth and a McDonald's decision to phase out its super-size meals.

Pinsky's bill would have required Maryland schools to install timers on machines to prohibit student access to sodas until 30 minutes after the school day ends in middle and elementary schools, and until the end of the last lunch period in high schools.

It was struck down in a 20-27 vote after a Charles County senator, on the telephone with a school superintendent who opposed the measure, argued that some school systems stood to lose lucrative vending contracts that fund athletic, music and technology programs.

"Do you really and truly think that this gets at the problem?" asked Democratic Sen. Thomas M. Middleton. "Kids come to school with 20-ounce Coca-Colas in their backpacks, and this bill does nothing to stop that."

"Obfuscation," Pinsky said later. "That ignores the health issues."

Pinsky, who has introduced similar measures before, said he will try again until he is successful.

"The first time on the floor with this, we got 17 votes, so now we're just four votes from making this law," he said.

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