With an eye on the youngest Texans' nutritional habits, lawmakers in the state house and senate advanced a bill that would limit beverage choices to water, low-fat milk and pure juice in public elementary and junior high schools by a vote of 24-6 in the Senate.
"If we're ever going to make a difference in the huge budget, we need to start thinking about prevention," said Sen. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio, in an interview after the vote. "It's a small step, but I think it gets us there."
The sugary drink ban had passed the House with changes requested by the beverage industry. The changes included the original bill applied to all public schools, but the current version exempts high schools.
Numerous states have already banned sodas in school vending machines with sporadic effects.
The bill will go to Gov. Rick Perry for final approval. It could go into effect as early as next year, and local school officials say it would affect the district in various ways. Stephenville ISD Superintendent Dr. Darrell Floyd said the school's contract with Coca-Cola will be slightly affected. Sugary sports drinks would have to be taken out of the machines on those campuses and replaced with water, low-fat milk and pure juice options.
"We've already been through one ban on sodas," Floyd said. "If this becomes a new law, we'll make sure all the necessary changes are made so SISD remains compliant with the law."
SISD's Director of Child Nutrition, Mona Little, said the bill will help further the more healthy options she has been introducing to SISD students.
This bill, which came up for a vote with just a day to spare before a legislative deadline, cleared the Senate two weeks after Coca-Cola announced a major anti-obesity initiative including juice drinks. Aides described the timing of the law as beneficial. With major soda producers and Texas lawmakers backing it, the push to steer students away from sugary drinks has just gained some big allies.