The Legislative Session came to an abrupt end on June 25th after House and Senate negotiations reached an impasse. Dozens of bills were left in limbo – including our competitive foods/school nutrition & healthy school marketing bills.
As you know, the competitive foods/school nutrition bill and the healthy school marketing bill were top priorities for the American Heart Association and our coalition partners. The first bill would have updated Rhode Island’s competitive foods/school nutrition guidelines to align with new USDA regulations (competitive foods means anything sold outside of – and in competition with – the school meals program such as vending, a la carte, school stores and in-school fundraisers). The second bill would have ensured that only healthy foods and beverages are advertised and marketed to children on school property.
Both bills were unanimously approved by the Rhode Island Senate. On the last day of session, our competitive foods/school nutrition bill gained momentum – it was quickly approved by the House Health, Education and Welfare Committee and immediately placed on the House floor calendar. As far as we know, our healthy school marketing bill was part of a bundle of smaller bills that were still being negotiated by the House and Senate. Later that night, the House and Senate came to a stalemate and the session abruptly ended. Dozens of bills were left on the floor calendar – including our competitive foods/school nutrition bill. Our healthy school marketing bill was left on the negotiating table. Unfortunately, this had nothing to do with the merit of our bills and everything to do with politics – which made it extra disappointing.
We came so close to victory – and it’s the outreach of our amazing You’re the Cure advocates that helped us get to that point! We will be ready at the earliest opportunity to tackle these bills again – whether it’s during a special session this fall or January 2016.
In the meantime, we need to celebrate our two big wins this year: our stroke bill was signed into law by Governor Raimondo, ensuring quality care for all stroke patients in Rhode Island; and, the Rhode Island Department of Health adopted regulations ensuring that every newborn in Rhode Island will receive a pulse oximetry test to screen for critical congenital heart defects effective July 1, 2015. Congratulations everyone!!!