California Healthline: Lawmakers Delay Vote on Calif. Bill To Tighten Vaccine Requirements

April 16, 2015

On Wednesday, state Sen. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) agreed to delay a Senate Education Committee vote on a contentious bill (SB 277) that would tighten the state's childhood vaccination requirements, the Los Angeles Times' "PolitiCal" reports (McGreevy, "PolitiCal," Los Angeles Times, 4/15).

Details of Bill

SB 277 -- by Pan and state Sen. Ben Allen (D-Redondo Beach) -- would end all personal belief exemptions to childhood vaccination requirements.

In addition, the bill would:

  • Only allow children who have received vaccinations for certain diseases, such as measles and whooping cough, to be admitted to schools in the state; and
  • Require schools to inform parents of immunization rates.

The bill would allow exemptions for medical reasons. If the bill is enacted, California would become the third state to only allow exemptions in cases when they are medically necessary (California Healthline, 4/6).

Last week, the Senate Health Committee voted 6-2 to approve the bill (Gorn, California Healthline, 4/9).

Hearing Details

The bill stalled in the state Senate Education Committee after opponents raised concerns about children missing out on an education if their parents refused to vaccinate them, according to the Sacramento Bee's "Capitol Alert" (White, "Capitol Alert," Sacramento Bee, 4/15).

Committee Chair state Sen. Carol Liu (D-La Cañada Flintridge) said, "The penalty for not immunizing their kids is you either have to home-school or take your kids out of public schools, and I don't think that's a solution to the problem" ("PolitiCal," Los Angeles Times, 4/15).

Other committee members echoed Liu's concerns.

For example, state Sen. Connie Leyva (D-Chino) said she would not support the bill, noting that "[h]ome-schooling my children would not have been [an] option for my husband and I had we chose not to vaccinate our children."

Meanwhile, state Senate Minority Leader Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar) said, "I don't think [the bill is] fully cooked."

However, there was some support for the bill.

Sacramento City Unified School District board member Jay Hansen said, "The school community clearly recognizes what is in [the] best interest of school kids."

Still, state Sen. Marty Block (D-San Diego), the only committee member who said he would vote for the bill, said that before the bill advanced to a full Senate vote, it needed a "better or less restrictive educational solution" ("Capitol Alert," Sacramento Bee, 4/15).

Liu urged Pan not to hold a vote on the bill, noting that without making changes to it, "I don't think your bill proceeds out of this committee" ("PolitiCal," Los Angeles Times, 4/15).

Potential Amendments

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Pan later said he would consider amending the bill.

He said, "After hearing comments from committee members, we chose to put the vote off until next week to allow a chance to review and consider any changes," adding that "if there are changes that will make the bill better, we should take the time to consider them" (Gutierrez, San Francisco Chronicle, 4/15).

For example, Pan said he would consider changes, such as:

  • Applying a stricter limit on the number of required vaccines;
  • Maintaining the state's religious exemption; and
  • Providing public school assistance for children who get home-schooled ("PolitiCal," Los Angeles Times, 4/15).

Liu gave Pan a week to fix the measure (Gunnison, New York Times, 4/15).