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07.13.15 Executive Kittleman vetoes Council Bill 17-2015 citing numerous flaws

July 13, 2015

Media Contact:
Deidre McCabe, Director of Communications, Office of Public Information, 410-313-2022

Executive Kittleman vetoes Council Bill 17-2015 citing numerous flaws

ELLICOTT CITY, MD – Howard County Executive Allan H. Kittleman today announced his veto of Council Bill 17-2015 at a press conference at the George Howard Building, describing multiple flaws and unintended consequences of the bill.

“This bill is an ineffective and unnecessary intrusion on personal responsibility and freedom. I trust Howard County residents and employees to make their own decisions regarding what they eat and drink,” Kittleman said. “Despite proponents’ assertions to the contrary, this bill will have no impact on reducing obesity and its related health problems for children or adults.”

The bill, introduced by County Councilman Calvin Ball in May, tabled by the Council and then passed July 6 in an amended form, places restrictions on food and beverages sold in vending machines on county property and mandates guidelines on packaged food and beverage items served or sold as part of youth-oriented county government programs.

In vetoing the bill, Kittleman identified numerous problems, including the unintended consequences of codifying nutritional standards that continually change.

“Nutritional preferences do not belong in the Howard County Code because these standards evolve over time. As new research is conducted, what’s considered most healthy often changes. Remember when margarine was considered healthier than butter? I don’t recall hearing much about the nutritional pitfalls of high fructose corn syrup until the past few years. We shouldn’t be put in a position where we need to pass legislation every time the nutrition industry modifies its recommendations,” Kittleman said.

Other shortcomings highlighted by Kittleman include:

  • Overreach of government: Local government should not legislate personal behavior regarding what to eat and drink and ban products that are readily available elsewhere.
  • Ineffective strategy: Comprehensive lifestyle changes improve health outcomes. Research has shown that voluntary programs stressing healthy behaviors have proven more effective than bans and mandates.
  • Redundant and unnecessary: The county’s youth programs already follow strict licensing regulations and COMAR (Code of Maryland Regulations) guidelines regarding which foods and beverages can be provided. Codifying these guidelines will make it more difficult to adjust standards as needed.
  • Detrimental to small business: Representatives of the Howard County Chamber of Commerce and local businesses testified the overly restrictive guidelines will make it difficult for county vendors to comply. Restrictions also will prohibit vendors from stocking healthy options that consumers want, such as Vitamin Water and Gold Peak Iced Tea, because they do not meet the guidelines.

During the press conference, Kittleman reinforced his approach to combating obesity and improving health outcomes, which focuses on education, outreach and community-based programs.

“As I have said frequently since taking office, banning or limiting access to some foods at limited locations is not an effective strategy to reducing obesity. I am committed to developing a comprehensive health and nutrition educational program for Howard County, encouraging lifestyle changes that are far more likely to produce results. Motivating people to take responsibility for their own health and fitness is the most meaningful approach to affecting real and measurable change.”