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Anti-soda tax bill pops out of Senate, House panel

October 11, 2017

Article courtesy of MIRS News

A bill primarily aimed at preventing local governments from imposing taxes on soda or other sweetened beverages cleared the Senate Wednesday, 31-5, while a second bill that does the same thing passed a House committee.

In the Senate, SB 0583, prohibits local governments from imposing a tax or fee on the sale of food or beverages. However, based on testimony in committee, it was introduced two weeks ago in reaction to public fallout over locally-enacted soda taxes in other states — particularly a measure in Cook County, Illinois. 

“This bill would prohibit excise taxes on, essentially, food, soda pop and chewing gum,” said Sen. Rebekah Warren (D-Ann Arbor), as she used her “no vote” explanation to argue against SB 0583. “Now this is public policy that will have absolutely zero immediate practical impact. That’s because there is not a single municipality in our state that is actively doing this. 

“Colleagues, I implore you to work together to give our local communities the tools to strengthen municipal finances,” Warren summed. “Because standing here to take one more tool away just puts them in an even tougher position.” 

Sen. Peter MacGregor MacGregor (R-Rockford), the sponsor of SB 0583, defended the legislation. 

“Our state constitution, by vote of the people in 1974, prohibits the state from imposing a sales tax on food and beverages,” MacGregor said. “But unfortunately, there is a potential of some loopholes and some skirting of our constitution.” 

“It’s happening in other states,” MacGregor continued. “This is a pre-emption. I’m trying to prevent our economy from going south.” 

Sen. Vincent Gregory (D-Lorthrup Village), Sen. Morris Hood III (D-Detroit), Sen. Hoon-Yung Hopgood (D-Taylor), and Sen. Bert Johnson (D-Highland Park) joined Warren in voting against the bill. 

HB 4999, sponsored by Rep. Rob VerHeulen (R-Walker), a measure very similar to SB 0583, was reported out of the House Competitiveness Committee today without amendment and placed on third reading status on the House floor. 
Rep. Lee Chatfield (R-Levering), the chair of the committee, said the bill is a first-of-its-kind in the nation and will “help families struggling to make ends meet continue to put food on the table without added strain to their pocketbooks.” 

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