Soda fans can raise a glass to New York’s highest court, which affirmed lower court rulings striking down the New York City Board of Health’s ban on “giant soda.”
In September 2012, the Board of Health approved a law banning the sale of 16 ounces or larger beverages that were “sweetened with sugar or another caloric sweetener that contain more than 25 calories per 8 fluid ounces.” Industry groups, including the American Beverage Association and the National Restaurant Association, challenged the law.
Just one day before the ban was set to take effect, a trial court judge issued an injunction on constitutional grounds. He concluded that the Board violated the separation of powers doctrine because it exceeded its authority and impermissibly trespassed on legislative jurisdiction. A unanimous appellate panel agreed.
In a 4-to-2 opinion, the state’s highest court affirmed. “By choosing among competing policy goals, without any legislative delegation or guidance, the Board engaged in law-making and thus infringed upon the legislative jurisdiction of the City Council of New York,” the court said.
The City Council is the sole legislative body of the city, the majority wrote, and the Board’s authority reflects only a regulatory mandate. The Board overstepped its bounds by engaging in value judgments entailing “difficult and complex choices between broad policy goals – choices reserved to the legislative branch.”
A minority opinion argued that the majority incorrectly curtailed the powers of the Board and misunderstood that the Board was responding to a public health threat in the 21st century.
To read the opinion in In the Matter of New York Statewide Coalition of Hispanic Chambers of Commerce v. The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, click here.
Why it matters: The decision from the state’s highest court sounded the death knell for the soda ban, one of Michael Bloomberg’s final efforts before concluding his term as mayor. Other regulatory efforts in the battle over sugary beverages – ranging from an additional tax to a California proposal to add warning labels to drinks – have also failed.