Raleigh, N.C. — A bill banning local governments from limiting the size of soft drinks is likely to win Senate approval next week after passing the Senate Judiciary 1 Committee Thursday morning.
House Bill 683, the "Commonsense Consumption Act," is a model bill from ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, a free-market pro-business group.
The bill would rule out any local ordinances limiting soft drink sizes, as New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently tried to do. The New York City ordinance is currently tied up in court.
Perhaps more importantly, the proposal would ban consumers from suing food and drink makers, distributors or advertisers for obesity caused by consumption of their products.
"It is essentially a personal accountability act," sponsor Rep. Brian Brown, R-Greene, told the committee.
Sen. Josh Stein, D-Wake, questioned the need for the bill, noting that North Carolina's contributory negligence law, one of the nation's most business-friendly, doesn't allow a claim if the plaintiff has contributed even 1 percent to his or her own injury.
But Sen. Buck Newton, R-Wilson, said some plaintiffs file frivolous lawsuits anyway, and some businesses choose to settle because it's cheaper than waiting for a judge to throw the case out.
Brown said he was unaware of any such suits in North Carolina but warned of "an escalation of these lawsuits across the country."
"That's what we're trying to avoid with legal extortion," said Sen. Bob Rucho, R-Mecklenburg.
The bill is expected on the Senate floor next week. It passed the House in May but will need to return to the House for a final vote to approve minor changes.