No Weight Behind Obesity Legislation

What started as a serious push to fight obesity in Florida may not amount to much this year after all. Several lawmakers filed bills mandating PE classes and banning junk food sales in school among other proposals, but it appears they're not willing to put any teeth into the effort.

Like millions of other Floridians, Monique Lockwood is trying to lose weight. She thinks Florida lawmakers should be doing more to help fight obesity, starting with requiring phys ed for Florida students.

“I think it's important because for health reasons, you know, a lot of kids end up in the hospital being sick because they're overweight,” says Monique.

Studies show nearly 30 percent of Florida middle schoolers are overweight or at risk of being overweight, but even after the governor's big study on the obesity epidemic last fall, lawmakers are reluctant to require school districts to do anything about it.

Several bills have been filed on everything from requiring PE classes to banning vending machine junk food, but with just weeks left in the legislative session, the proposals are losing steam.

Rep. Holly Benson says it's not fair to impose new rules in a tight budget year.

“You have to be very careful not to send down a lot of mandates that our local school districts can't handle,” Benson says.

But when you compare the billions of dollars spent on obesity-related health conditions with the cost of allowing kids a half-hour of recess every day, Sen. Gwen Margolis says that argument doesn't hold up.

“I think it's a cop-out. I think we really need to go ahead and start mandating phys ed in school.”

But the support just isn't there. Even the governor says it should be up to the schools, the same schools that scrapped PE in the first place.

Sen. Gwen Margolis's bill requiring phys ed in kindergarten through 5th grade passed its first committee Tuesday. The bill would also require the Department of Education to find out how many public schools have eliminated PE in Florida. The proposal has two more committees to clear before it goes before the full Senate.