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BI-WEEKLY UPDATE

GOVERNMENT AFFAIR NEWS — FEDERAL & STATE


FEDERAL ISSUES

House Dems Push New Food Safety Bill
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) would receive more authority to recall meat, poultry, and eggs products that are contaminated with pathogens like Salmonella under new legislation introduced Wednesday by Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.). The congresswomen introduced the Pathogens Reduction and Testing Reform Act, after Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and other USDA officials said they do not have the authority to issue many such recalls. "The USDA has failed to recall meat contaminated with antibiotic-resistant pathogens, because they do not believe they have the legal authority to do so. This bill would ensure there is no confusion," DeLauro said.
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Supreme Court Rules For Pom Wonderful In Dispute With Coke
The Supreme Court recently sided with juice maker Pom Wonderful in its long-running false advertising dispute with the Coca-Cola Co., a decision that could open the door to more litigation against food makers for deceptive labeling. The Justices ruled 8-0 that Pom can go forward with a lawsuit alleging the label on a "Pomegranate Blueberry" beverage offered by Coke's Minute Maid unit is misleading because 99 percent of the drink is apple and grape juice.
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For Advocates, Anti-Soda Failures Still Have Pop
Rep. Rosa DeLauro is about to introduce the first-ever federal bill to tax sugar-sweetened beverages and, by all accounts, the legislation doesn't have a chance. But that's not really the point. As health advocates and local political activists made clear at the National Soda Summit, in Washington, D.C., recently, the push to drastically reduce soda consumption in the United States isn't really about winning sweeping tax or labeling policies, which the beverage industry has by and large defeated.
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Competitive Food Options Become Healthier
Competitive foods and beverages sold outside of the federally-reimbursed school meals programs are common in districts across the country. They're sold in vending machines and at snack bars, school stores and fundraisers. But with concerns rising about childhood obesity and other health issues, there has been a push for healthier snacks. Change has been driven by national legislation such as the Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 and the Department of Agriculture's "Smart Snacks in School" nutrition standards for competitive foods and beverages, which was issued in October 2013. These standards limit calories, salt, sugar and fat, and promote snacks that contain whole grains, low-fat dairy, fruits, vegetables or protein as the main ingredients. Schools have many competitive food options that meet these new requirements while remaining appealing for students in all grades.
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Ag Appropriations Bill Still Delayed In House of Representatives
Current House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has announced the House will take up the Fiscal Year 2015 Defense Appropriations bill and bill reauthorizing the Commodity Futures Trading Commission on Wednesday — but there's still no word on when floor action will begin again on the ag appropriations bill.
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Senate Vote on Agriculture Funding Bill Delayed Twice by Partisan Wrangling
The $180-billion "minibus" package of appropriations bills to fund agriculture and other government programs for fiscal 2015 was pulled from the Senate floor Thursday afternoon by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) after his attempt failed to require 60 votes to adopt any amendments.
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STATE ISSUES


California: Bill Again Boosting California Minimum Wage Fails
With multiple Democrats not voting, a California Assembly panel on Wednesday rejected a bill that would raise the state's minimum wage beyond the boost agreed to in 2013. Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, repeated the arguments that last year drove lawmakers and Gov. Jerry Brown to approve a bill boosting California's minimum wage to $10 an hour by 2016. Leno's Senate Bill 935 would build on that, pushing the baseline to $13 an hour in 2017 and then allowing the wage to rise along with the cost of living thereafter.
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California: $15 Wage Too Much To Swallow, Restaurant Group Says
Get ready to pay $7 for a bottle of beer and $9 for a cup of soup. And don't even think about buying your lunchtime sandwich for less than $10. These are the predictions of restaurant and bar owners who say they'll have no choice but to pass on their increased costs to customers if voters approve a November ballot measure to gradually raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
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California: Soda Warning Label Bill Stalls In Committee
California lawmakers on Tuesday turned back legislation that would require warning labels on sugary beverages, voicing skepticism about the public health benefits. "It's an honorable effort but I feel it's ineffective," said Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, who acknowledged that soda manufacturers are prominent job generators in her district. "I think this bill creates as much confusion as it does information. A label which will appear on soda and sports drinks with no labels appearing on chocolate milk, juices or alcoholic beverages send the wrong message."
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California: Soda Labeling Bill — Why It's A Dumb Move For Democrats
Legislation that would require California to put warning labels on soda — equivalent to the Surgeon General’s warning on a pack of cigarettes — was stalled in an Assembly yesterday. That's a good thing. Why? Because Democrats just passed another balanced, on-time budget. They've done a remarkable job of restraining themselves from passing boatloads of new taxes and new spending programs. If it wasn't for the allegations of corruptions to a handful of members, the Legislature's approval ratings would likely have continued to climb, as Legislative Democrats have done an excellent job of proving they can be responsible with the large majorities they have in both Houses.
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California: Repeal of Ban on Bare-Hand Contact with Food OK'd
California's chefs and bartenders can resume legally handling food with their bare hands under a bill headed to the governor's desk that would repeal an unpopular regulation. The bill, AB2130, passed its final legislative hurdle Thursday with a 32-0 vote in the state Senate.
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New York: Brentwood Schools Send Vending Machine Junk Food To The Trash
Long Island's largest school district has removed fatty snacks and drinks from vending machines. As TV 10/55 Long Island Bureau Chief Richard Rose reported, the ban at the Brentwood Union Free School District on almost all carbonated drinks and snacks containing more than 200 calories comes in advance of new federal rules take effecting July 1.
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New York: High Court Rejects Large Soda Ban
New York state's highest court on Thursday refused to reinstate a ban on the sale of large-sized sodas. In its 4-2 ruling, the court of appeals said New York City's health department overstepped its authority when it barred the sale of sugary drinks larger down 16 ounces, a measure backed by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg as a way to fight obesity.
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Oregon Hopes To Be First State To Map GMO Fields
Before residents in southern Oregon overwhelmingly voted to ban genetically modified crops last month, farmers negotiated for months with a biotech company that grows engineered sugar beets near their fields. Their goal was to set up a system to peacefully coexist, an online mapping database of fields to help growers minimize cross-pollination between engineered and non-engineered crops. But the effort between farmers and Swiss company Syngenta failed, leading to the ban. Last October, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber directed the state's Department of Agriculture to undertake something far more ambitious than that failed mapping effort — map GMO field locations across the entire state and establish buffer zones and exclusion areas for GE crops.
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Vermont: Big Food Battles Vermont Over GMO-Labeling Law
The recently launched, four-pronged suit against the state of Vermont's genetically modified organism (GMO)-labeling law comes as no surprise. Last week, a group of the country's largest grocery organizations filed suit against Vermont for its passage of a law (Act 120) requiring all manufacturers to label those products that contain GMO ingredients. The four "Big Food" companies — the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), the Snack Food Association, the International Dairy Foods Association and the National Association of Manufacturers — allege that Vermont's newly minted law contravenes federal law and cites the First and Fourteenth Amendments, the right of free speech and the commerce clause.
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INTERNATIONAL ISSUES


UK: Morrisons Ban £2 Coins at Some Self-Service Checkouts
Several Morrisons stores have stopped accepting £2 coins at their self-service checkouts because people have been tricking them with foreign money. The supermarket chain said it was upgrading its machines, so they could tell the difference.
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Keeping In Touch With NAMA Government Affairs
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