FARMINGTON — A new bill is once again asking Navajo lawmakers to implement a sales tax on foods containing a high concentration of sugar, salt and saturated fat.

On Wednesday, legislation containing the proposed Healthy Diné Nation Act of 2014 was posted to the Navajo Nation Council's website.

The bill, which is similar to a 2013 version that failed to generate a veto override by the tribal council, once again centers on the need to promote healthy living and access to nutritious food on the reservation.

"The Healthy Diné Nation Act of 2014 is to take responsibility of our health crisis, to raise awareness of unhealthy foods, to empower everyone to lead productive and healthy lives," according to the bill.

Mariette Barber totals up a customer’s purchase on March 15, 2013,  at the Quick Stop in Shiprock. A new bill that would impose a sales tax on junk
Mariette Barber totals up a customer's purchase on March 15, 2013, at the Quick Stop in Shiprock. A new bill that would impose a sales tax on junk food purchased on the Navajo Nation has reemerged after Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly vetoed a similar bill earlier this year. Revenue generated from the tax would fun community wellness projects. (The Daily Times file photo)

It also cites a number of health studies by the Navajo Area Indian Health Service, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Mayo Clinic and the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Information from the studies highlights health problems that affect Navajos, including diabetes, obesity, heart disease, stroke and high cholesterol.

According to the report by the Navajo Area Indian Health Service, there are 25,000 Navajos with diabetes and another 75,000 who are pre-diabetic.

The legislation proposes the Navajo Tax Commission impose a sales tax between 2 and 6 percent on "minimal to no nutritional value food items" purchased on the reservation.

The bill defines minimal to no nutritional value food as sweetened beverages and prepackaged and non-prepackaged snacks that are stripped of essential nutrients and are high in salt, saturated fat and sugar.

Foods and beverages labeled by the bill as containing "minimal to no nutritional value food" include candy, potato chips, frozen desserts, baked or fried foods, soda, energy drinks, flavored water and iced coffee.

An aisle of the Quick Stop in Shiprock is seen on March 15, 2013. A bill to impose a junk food tax on unhealthy food and drinks bought on the Navajo Nation
An aisle of the Quick Stop in Shiprock is seen on March 15, 2013. A bill to impose a junk food tax on unhealthy food and drinks bought on the Navajo Nation is once again before the tribal council. (The Daily Times file photo)

Like the previous version of the bill, revenue collected from the tax would be deposited into the Community Wellness Development Projects Fund and used by chapters as seed money to initiate, match or improve community wellness projects.

These types of wellness projects include developing farming and vegetable gardens, greenhouses, farmers markets, skate parks and health classes and purchasing exercise equipment.

Delegate Danny Simpson is sponsoring the bill, which will be eligible for committee action on Tuesday. It was assigned to the five standing committees and to the council, where final authority rests.

This is the second time Simpson, who represents Becenti, Crownpoint, Huerfano, Lake Valley, Nageezi, Nahodishgish, Tsé 'íí'áhí and Whiterock chapters in New Mexico, has sponsored this type of bill.

In April, members of the Navajo Nation Council failed to override Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly's veto on a bill that would have enacted an additional 2 percent sales tax on junk food purchased on the reservation.

In the memorandum Shelly wrote in February, he stated the tribal government was not prepared to implement and collect taxes on junk food.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636. nsmith@daily-times.com Follow her @nsmithdt on Twitter.