Well Being

Mississippi Lawmakers Worry Over “Organic Agenda,” Fight For Right To Be Unhealthiest State

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shutterstock_5817151It's been a bipolar week so far in terms of nanny state efforts. First, a New York Supreme Court judge struck down Mayor Michael Bloomberg's intended big soda ban; then legislators in California announced plans to make it illegal for non-homeowners to smoke cigarettes at home. Now, in the weirdest twist—and it's only Tuesday!—Mississippi lawmakers have passed an “anti-Bloomberg bill.” The bipartisan measure bars cities and towns in the state from requiring calorie counts, capping portion sizes or nixing toys from fast food kids meals.

What? Guys, I'm as anti-nanny state as the next red-blooded American. Probably more so; I've got a long history of more-than flirting with libertarianism. But this. is. just. stupid. It's the legislative equivalent of the Heart Attack Grill. It's a defensive, destructive plan from a state that routinely ranks as one of the fattest and unhealthiest in the nation. It makes me think that the entire Mississippi legislature is made up of 15-year-old boys.

… or people in the pocket of the restaurant industry. This widely-supported bill “was the subject of intense lobbying by groups including the restaurant association, the small business and beverage group and the chicken farmers’ lobby,” according to Kaiser Health News. Shock me shock me shock me.

Mike Cashion, executive director the Mississippi Hospitality and Restaurant Association, says the bill is a direct reaction to Bloomberg-style government intervention in public health. “If you look at how menus have changed, whether it be in fast food or family dining, you are seeing more and more healthy options,” Cashion said. “Not because of legislative mandates or regulator mandates but because of consumer demand. Our industry has always been one to respond to the marketplace.”

And therefore we're going to lobby for legislative mandates that prohibit anything but marketplace demand? Are we dealing with a weird, new breed of libertarian fascism or something?

Rep. Gregory Holloway, a Democrat who ushered the bill through the state House, said the goal is simply to create “consistency” in state nutrition laws. I'm sympathetic to that—but his fears are funny. “We don’t want local municipalities experimenting with labeling of food and any organic agenda,” he said.

The organic agenda! Oh noes! Always pushing their sinister anti-poison-in-the-food-supply plan!

That part made me laugh (in sadness). The next part highlights just how wrongheaded a mandate against public health mandates is.

Chip Johnson, mayor of Hernando, Miss., near the Tennessee border, is no fan of a soda ban, but he doesn’t like the anti-Bloomberg bill either.

Hernando has built biking and walking paths all over town and has received national attention for the work. Johnson bristles at the Legislature’s efforts to dictate what he can do in pursuit of a healthier community, including restricting the ability to put nutritional information on menus.

“You know what? If little Alligator, Mississippi, wanted to do that, that is up to the people that live there. It is not up to the state to tell the people at the local level what to do,” Johnson said. “They are using this to mask what the bill is really about, which is taking away home rule.”

Precisely. It's a defiant show pony of a bill that takes away the very thing it purports to protect. Dislike. And anyone who truly cares about balancing self-government with public health should dislike it, too.