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Monning Talks Health, Boating

news Bill MonningCalifornia Sen. Bill Monning (D-Carmel) stopped by our office recently, with the legislature on recess for the month of July, to talk about his new bill to regulate boating and relive his failed efforts to require warning labels on sugary drinks.

We got into some big-picture discussions, but we’ll start with the good news—or at least the optimistic stuff. Monning is excited about his boating safety bill, SB 941. If signed, it would require boating licenses for people operating boats. The test for the license could be completed online, and the requirement would be phased in gradually between now and 2025, based on age. It would first apply to people 20 years old and younger in 2018.

In a recent letter, Monning wrote that 45 states currently require individuals to take boating safety courses before operating vessels, adding that there were more than 473 boating accidents and 53 fatalities from such incidents in 2012.

“A lot of these involve the rotor blades hitting people that are in the water,” Monning tells GT. “People aren’t supposed to drink and drive on the road, but they think when they get on a lake or the ocean it’s open season.”

The idea for the bill, which is currently in the Senate appropriations committee, came from a San Luis Obispo County mother who lost her son in a boating accident last year.

Maybe this effort will fare better than the senator’s sugar-labeling bill. Unfortunately for Monning, that bill—which could have been a career landmark piece of legislation for the politician—died in the Assembly health committee.

Monning called the news “a disappointment but not a surprise” and says intense lobbying from big business groups like CalBev did it in.

“Nobody’s challenging our assertions about the health impacts,” Monning says. “The industry changes the conversation to we’re denying choice—it’s nanny government. We’re not denying choice. We want to provide informed choice. The label was developed by doctors and scientists. It’s incontrovertible. It says: Warning: This beverage contributes to obesity, diabetes and tooth decay. Statement of fact. Should a consumer have notice that consumption of liquid sugar contributes to those health impacts when it’s well held by the medical establishment?”

On the bright side, Monning says partisanship has improved in state politics over the past couple of years—ever since voters granted the legislature the authority to pass budgets with a simple majority in 2010.

And though it can be exhaustive for Monning to cover the 600,000 square miles of his district during his month off, he says it’s well worth it. “Doing district work usually means a lot of road time, and a lot of miles, but it’s the most beautiful district in the state of California—200 miles of coastline,” he says. “It could be a lot worse.”

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