CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The House and Senate health committees jointly endorsed a bill Tuesday for the upcoming legislative session meant to clarify policy regarding the availability of soda and sugar-sweetened drinks in the state's public schools.
The draft measure would repeal a law passed last decade that aimed to promote healthy beverages but ended up conflicting both with state Board of Education policy and federal regulations, Executive Director Richard Goff of the Office of Child Nutrition at the Department of Education told lawmakers.
"We have a law in the books that basically prohibits the sale of any beverages, healthy or unhealthy, during breakfast or lunch," Goff said.
The law also offers conflicting percentages regarding the content of real fruit in fruit juices, which along with milk and water are considered healthy beverages, Goff said.
The West Virginia Healthy Lifestyles Coalition requested the repeal, citing the state's high rankings for obesity and Type 2 diabetes. The latter disease, which interferes with the body's delivery of energy from food, was once known as adult-onset diabetes. But as obesity is a leading risk factor, it has emerged among children.
Repealing the statute would dispel the confusion and allow board policy to prevail, Goff said.
"We've taken painstaking measures to try to eliminate soft drinks in public schools just during the instructional day," he told lawmakers.
The voice vote recommending the bill for introduction and passage was not unanimous, with several GOP lawmakers appearing to oppose the measure.