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California lawmakers pass ban on local soda taxes

SACRAMENTO — Soda taxes may stop popping up in California and elsewhere, thanks to a new push by the beverage industry to fight such measures.

California lawmakers passed a bill to ban local taxes on soda for the next 12 years Thursday and sent it to Governor Jerry Brown, who hasn't explicitly said if he'll sign it. It follows similar bans recently passed in Arizona and Michigan. The American Beverage Association, which represents Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and others, has backed the statewide bans after several cities passed taxes on sugary drinks in recent years.

Voters in Oregon will decide on a similar statewide ban in November.

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The California bill would not affect four local soda taxes that were passed in the state.

It's part of a last-minute deal to block a beverage industry-backed ballot measure that would make it much harder for cities and counties to raise taxes of any kind. The beverage association said in a statement the legislation is about helping keeping groceries, including drinks, affordable.

Both legislative chambers approved the proposal despite reluctance among lawmakers.

''This industry is aiming a nuclear weapon at government in California and saying, 'If you don't do what we want we are going to pull the trigger and you are not going to be able to fund basic government services,' '' said Senator Scott Wiener, a Democrat from San Francisco, which has a soda tax.

The Legislature's action drew a strong rebuke from public health advocates who view soda taxes as a crucial front in their efforts to contain diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.

But local government officials, terrified by the prospect of having their hands tied on all future tax increases, reluctantly backed the legislation.

associated press