A bill that would ban trans fats in most foods served at schools squeaked out of the Senate Tuesday on an 18-17 vote.
The much amended, re-amended and delayed bill is opposed by many school districts, and lobbyists hope to have it killed in the House, hopefully by having it assigned to the House Agriculture Committee.
Critics argue that the bill would be financial burden on districts, particularly small ones, and that it’s unnecessary because some districts already have removed trans fats from their menus and because pending U.S. Department of Agriculture rules call for reduction of trans fats in school meals.
The bill has been hanging around on Senate calendars since February. On Feb. 20 the Senate Agriculture Committee passed the bill – after adding amendments to exempt school districts with fewer than 1,000 students, exempt food served at fundraisers and delay the bill’s implementation until the 2013-14 school year.
The full Senate on March 28 stripped that amendment but then didn’t vote and laid the bill over. The Senate returned to preliminary consideration of the bill Monday, adding back amendments to exempt fund-raiser food and meals provided through USDA and to delay implementation until 2013.
But senators rejected an amendment that would have exempted smaller districts.
“We need to treat our small districts differently,” argued Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass, after she moved that amendment.
“Just because they’re small they shouldn’t be unhealthy,” retorted Sen. Evie Hudak, D-Westminster.
Sen. Kevin Grantham, R-Cañon City, noted that exempting districts with fewer than 1,000 students would affect only 4.25 percent of statewide enrollment.
The bill hits “schools that are already on the margins. You’re asking them to do one more thing,” Grantham said. “We’re already seeing this stuff coming down the federal government. We do not need to force this upon our school districts.”
The bill came up for a final vote Tuesday, gaining the bare majority required for passage. The measure, backed by the American Heart Association, is sponsored by Sen. Lucia Guzman, D-Denver and a former Denver school board member, and Rep. Tom Massey, R-Poncha Springs and chair of the House Education Committee.
For the record
The Senate gave final 35-0 approval to House Bill 12-1146, which continues a program that allows school districts and community colleges to offer dropout recovery efforts through which older students who have few high school credits can earn their high school diplomas by taking classes at community colleges.
The Senate also gave preliminary approval to House Bill 12-1080, which would change the name of Adams State College to Adams State University.
House members spent their day in briefings on the proposed 2012-13 budget bill.
Use the Education Bill Tracker for links to bill texts and status information.