ST. PAUL – A bill to ban frivolous obesity lawsuits in Minnesota is headed to the House floor.
The so-called “Cheeseburger Bill” sponsored by State Representative Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City, passed its final committee Wednesday. Rep. Urdahl said he is optimistic about the bill’s chances on the House floor.
“Protecting small business owners and food producers is something everyone should be willing to get behind,” Rep. Urdahl said.
The “Cheeseburger Bill” legislation would protect restaurants and food manufacturers from lawsuits alleging their food product caused a person to gain weight or suffer an obesity related health condition. Because the profit margin on the average restaurant is so small, having to pay damage awards or higher insurance premiums resulting from an obesity lawsuit could force an owner to close his or her business, Urdahl said.
The bill would still allow legitimate lawsuits resulting from mislabeling, misrepresentation or tainted food to go forward.
Urdahl further warned that only one successful obesity lawsuit would trigger a chain reaction starting on the farm or field where a food is produced and ending in the pocketbook of Minnesotans who dine out. Manufacturers and restaurants would pass the insurance and damage award costs down to customers by way of higher prices, which would only lower demand and in the end hurt the family farmer who earns a living producing the food we eat, Urdahl said.
A second bill sponsored by Rep. Urdahl received a key committee approval Wednesday. House File 719 would award dairy producers with income tax credits for improvements they make to their dairy operations. The bill would allow up to $75,000 in credits on individual income taxes for producers who build new barns; fences; water and feed facilities; milking operations; and milk storage facilities. The credit could be taken all at once or over a 15-year span.
“Supporting our dairy industry is one of my top priorities in the legislature. I authored several dairy incentives in the past and I will continue to push for them in the future. Encouraging such an important part of the rural economy is something that I and most legislators take very seriously,” Rep. Urdahl said. The tax credit plan is part of Governor Tim Pawlenty’s agriculture development plan released in January. The bill passed the House Agriculture and Rural Development Committee and will soon be heard in the House Taxes Committee.