GOV. BARBOUR VETOES HB 924

JACKSON – Gov. Haley Barbour announced today he vetoed House Bill 924, saying the legislation “adds to the fat of state government” by duplicating existing public and private efforts to combat obesity in the state.

The bill mandated all state agencies to provide services to the 34-member committee. Mississippi taxpayers already fund several efforts to raise awareness and reduce the obesity problem in the state.

“While I appreciate the legislative efforts to address this problem, I do not believe that another bureaucratic entity is the way to successfully change the culture of obesity in our state,” Gov. Barbour wrote in his veto message.

School districts, the Department of Health and several commissions previously established by the Legislature address the state’s weight problems. Private hospitals and a nonprofit also have programs to educate Mississippians on healthy eating habits and exercise.

The full veto message follows:
TO THE MISSISSIPPI HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES:
GOVERNOR’S VETO MESSAGE FOR HOUSE BILL 924:

I am returning House Bill 924: “AN ACT TO CREATE THE COUNCIL ON COMBATING OBESITY IN MISSISSIPPI AND PROVIDE FOR THE MEMBERS OF THE COUNCIL; TO DIRECT THE COUNCIL TO DEVELOP A COMPREHENSIVE, STRATEGIC PLAN TO COMBAT OBESITY IN MISSISSIPPI, WHICH MUST ADDRESS CERTAIN ISSUES; TO PROVIDE THAT MEMBERS OF THE COUNCIL WILL SERVE WITHOUT COMPENSATION FOR THEIR SERVICES, AND THE COUNCIL WILL PERFORM ITS DUTIES WITHOUT LEGISLATIVE APPROPRIATION OR THE USE OF ANY STATE FUNDS; TO REQUIRE THE COUNCIL TO PREPARE AND PRESENT AN ANNUAL REPORT OF ITS WORK TO THE LEGISLATURE AND THE GOVERNOR; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES,” not approved and assign the following reasons for my veto.

After full consideration, I am vetoing House Bill 924, which sets up a 34-member council to combat obesity in Mississippi. This bill is, at best, duplicative considering the numerous private and public efforts to address this issue in Mississippi; at worst, this bill simply adds to the fat of state government.

The Legislature has commissioned various entities to address this issue, including:
• A Statewide Council for Obesity Prevention and Management, which was passed in 2001 but dissolved in 2006;
• A Governor’s Commission on Physical Fitness and Sports was passed in 1992 and still exists;
• A 2007 mandate for every public school district to establish a local school health and physical education council; this same law requires every school district to adopt a wellness program governing students’ lifestyles; and
• A 2002 mandate for the Department of Education to employ a physical activity coordinator, whose job is to monitor every elementary and middle school to make sure it provides at least 150 minutes of physical education per week during grades K-8.

Some of the programs and services currently available to address overweight children and adults include the State Health Department’s Office of Preventative Health, which oversees a Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity; the Central Mississippi Medical Center, which offers free seminars on weight management; Baptist Health Systems, which provides nutrition counseling and weight management consultation to individuals and groups; and the Mississippi Against Obesity Foundation, a non-profit charity established in 2007 to raise awareness about obesity in the state.

While I appreciate the legislative efforts to address this problem, I do not believe that another bureaucratic entity is the way to successfully change the culture of obesity in our state. Government officials, including legislators, have already made significant strides by setting a good example for their constituents by engaging in an intensive diet and exercise fitness challenge for the past two years.

For these reasons, I am vetoing House Bill 924.

Respectfully submitted,
Haley Barbour

Governor Haley Barbour Release
4/27/11