Morning Headlines: The Great Soda Tax Debate Has Begun

Critic says proposed three-cent tax is "the highest rate that has ever been proposed in the world."

Image via Alexander Kaiser,

Image via Alexander Kaiser,

Good morning, Philadelphia. Here’s what you need to know today:

The big debate over Mayor Kenney’s proposed soda tax has begun.

Kenney won’t even formally introduce his proposal for a 3-cent-per-ounce soda tax until Thursday, but already a group has sprung up to oppose it. Political strategist Larry Ceisler went on Rich Zeoli’s radio show Monday afternoon, representing “The Coalition to Stop a Soda Tax.” “Three cents is, from our research, and we’ve been through a lot of these, that is the highest rate that has ever been proposed in the world,” Ceisler said, and later cast the debate in terms of freedom: “It’s just whether people want to be be able to buy and do what they want to do.” KYW reports, meanwhile, that Kenney is rejecting criticism for his turnaround on the issue — as a councilman, he opposed then-Mayor Michael Nutter’s soda tax proposal. “There are more identifiable projects that this money will pay for that were not in existence seven years ago,” Kenney said. “We’re talking about things that people elected to the administration and elected me to do.”

The first confirmed case of the Zika virus has been announced in Philadelphia.

But Philly Mag’s Victor Fiorillo says you shouldn’t freak out: According to the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, a woman living in the city was diagnosed with the virus after returning from a trip to the Caribbean. Officials stressed that the woman did not require hospitalization and that she is recovering. The Zika virus is usually transmitted through mosquito bites, and the mosquito that commonly carries it is not found in this area, say officials. Zika can also be transmitted sexually or between a pregnant woman and her unborn child and can cause birth defects in the brain. As such, Philadelphia Health Commissioner Thomas Farley has warned pregnant women against traveling to areas experiencing Zika outbreaks. He also advised all Philadelphians traveling to those areas to “take measures to avoid being bitten by mosquitos.” While Zika is rarely responsible for deaths, it can make you sick. Symptoms can include fever, rash, achy joints, and conjunctivitis. But, as a CHOP doctor recently told Be Well Philly, “Most people in the U.S. have little reason to worry.”

Chris Christie’s endorsement of Donald Trump isn’t working out so well for Chris Christie.

Philly Mag’s Dan McQuade reports that Christie is taking shots from all sidesJennifer Rubin, a columnist for the Washington Post who was previously a huge Christie backer, wrote that he was “now ruined.” Supporters like Meg Whitman, the CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprise and a surrogate for Christie on the campaign trail, denounced his decision: “The governor is mistaken if he believes he can now count on my support, and I call on Christie’s donors and supporters to reject the governor and Donald Trump outright.” “There’s widespread disappointment and anger from people close to him to longtime allies to New Jersey Republicans who are worried about how this might affect down-ballot races to county GOP chairs who are now being pressured to follow their governor and endorse Trump,” said Matt Katz, who has covered Christie since 2011 and wrote a well-received biography of Christie, American Governor, this year. “It’s causing a lot of deep anxiety.”

Senator Robert Menendez says the First Amendment protects him from federal corruption charges.

Lawyers for the New Jersey Democrat made the argument Monday at Philadelphia’s Third Circuit Court of Appeals, Reuters reports, saying the First Amendment protects Menendez’s right to intervene with government officials on behalf of a friend who gave him a million dollars worth of gifts. Menendez’s discussions with officials, they said, centered on the policies involved — not the friend himself. But at least one judge sounded skeptical, noting not all Congressional action is protected by the First Amendment’s clause protecting speech and debate. “It looks like he’s doing constituent services,” the judge said, “and that doesn’t get you the shield of the speech and debate clause.” No word on when to expect a ruling in the case.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art is offering free and discounted memberships to working artists — even if your art is only seen on Etsy.

NewsWorks reports the museum has unveiled the program, which gives free admission to any artist who has a work in the museum’s collection. Other “working artists” — and you meet the definition even if your work is only seen on Etsy — are eligible for a $40 annual membership; the normal cost is $75. Says the museum’s CEO, Timothy Rub: “The museum should always be accessible to them because they draw inspiration from our collections and, in turn, help us to inspire others.”

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