Immunization bill moves forward in House despite shots from naysayers
Strong feelings are injected into both sides of the immunization debate. Should students be allowed to attend school without their shots? Whose right is it to decide when a child is immunized — the parent? the child? the state?
For a bill that’s garnered so much ink and so many hours of testimony, HB 1288 makes little substantive change to Colorado’s current immunization laws.
Right now, a parent sending a child to public or private school can opt out of immunization for one of three reasons: religious, medical or personal/ philosophical. HB 1288 would require that parents wishing to opt out provide a doctor’s note or complete a 45 minute online information module on both the dangers and benefits of immunization in addition to signing an opt-out form. The measure would also provide parents looking to enroll their kids in a particular school information about the school’s rates of immunization.
“We’ve had a pertussis outbreak for a the second year in a row now,” said Rep. Dan Pabon of Denver, the bill’s sponsor, referring to a nasty bought of whooping cough that’s recently re-emerged around the country and has been tied to reduced immunization rates. He added that Colorado is sixth in the nation for highest immunization opt-out rates and that every year 3,000 Colorado children enter kindergarden here without one or more vaccines.
Pabon emphasized that his measure would not do away with immunization opt-outs, but instead require parents to demonstrate that they’ve spent some time educating themselves on the issue before making their choice.
Rep. Brian DelGrosso of Loveland opposed the bill on the grounds that it should be a parent’s right to choose, regardless of how much online education they get on the issue. DelGrosso chose to vaccinate his kids, but his brother didn’t.
“The sponsor is saying my brother is an idiot, my brother’s a moron, he doesn’t know what he’s talking about and somehow the sponsor of this bill knows more than my brother,” said DelGrosso, adding that it’s burdensome to require folks to pay a copay to consult a doctor for their opt-out.
Broader opposition to vaccination stems from concerns over some vaccines’ possible connection to skyrocketing rates of autism in the country, which now effects roughly 1 in 88 children. The National Vaccine Information Center, an informed consent advocacy group, has also taken a stance of opposition on the bill — and several similar education measures throughout the nation — arguing that they are coercive.
Rep. Jeanne Labuda of Denver came out in explicit support not just of the legislation to make sure parents are thoroughly informed when they decided to opt out of vaccinating their kids, but also of vaccinationS in general. Her argument was historical and utilitarian. She said that while there is a risk associated with vaccination, her support is firmly rooted in the memory of receiving the polio vaccine, bitter on a sugar cube, that allowed her to play again with other children.
The House gave the bill initial approval on a voice vote.
Getting amped in more places
Rep. Max Tyler, who drives an electric car, got initial approval in the House today for his bill to help install more charging stations for the gas-free vehicles.
SB 28 would make private sector buildings and properties, along with universities, eligible to apply for what’s currently a federal grant to install charging stations. Over time, Tyler explained, the funding for the charging stations will come from $20 stickers the owners of alternative vehicles buy.
After much debate, House gives anti-fraud bill wide support
Pueblo Rep. Clarice Navarro-Ratzlaff’s bill to better fund Colorado’s fraud investigation unit is structured like a fee increase. But it’s an increase small businesses may never see — depending on who you ask.
HB 1057 would allow the Secretary of State’s office to send an extra dollar out of each $8 commercial filing fee to the investigation unit. Yesterday, representatives worried about exactly where that dollar would come from. Would the Secretary of State’s office take the hit — as the sponsor said was promised — or would the extra cost eventually get passed on to the business owners through higher filing fees?
The conversation evolved into a heated debate, with many representatives saying they weren’t comfortable voting for the measure without written confirmation from Secretary of State Scott Gessler’s office that it would indeed cover the cost of sending more money to the investigation unit at least for the first three years until Navarro’s bill comes up for review.
Those concerns eased last night when the Secretary of State’s media director, Rich Coolidge, wrote an email confirming the promise.
Rep. Joe Salazar of Thornton — who yesterday voiced skepticism about Gessler’s committment — said today that the email was enough to turn his no vote into a yes. Rep. Jovan Melton remained unsure.
“I get the feeling that I’m voting on a deal and not a bill,” he said.
Rep. Brian DelGrosso defended Navarro’s bill, saying there’d been no back-room deal between Navarro and the Secretary of State, simply a phone call. While he acknowledged that the bill was “written a little weird” because it looked like a fee increase, he said in practice business wouldn’t have to pay more. He added that the legislation is desperately needed as the investigation unit currently has a backlog of more than 100 fraud cases.
Opponents of the measure didn’t disagree with DelGrosso’s statement about the merits of the bill. However, while the Secretary’s written promise to fund the measure flipped some votes, it also raised new concerns — specifically among lawmakers who have been battling the Secretary over his department’s finances in the Joint Budget Committee.
“I’m just curious how they plan to augment this fee when they’re already short based on where they set their fee today. In the bill it says an extra dollar, but I don’t know where they’re going to get that,” said Rep. Jenise May of Aurora, who sits on the Budget Committee.
Rep. Crisanta Duran of Denver, who chairs the Budget Committee, said the current shortfall in the Secretary of State’s budget is already a result of setting fees too low. She criticized Gessler’s fee structure as a “major fiscal issue.”
“If we have to use general fund dollars for Secretary of State’s budget because he’s not doing what he’s supposed to be doing under statue to pay for the duties of his office, it’s coming from somewhere else. That money comes from education, from seniors, from trying to make sure there’s flood recovery in the state,” Duran said.
The debate bounced back to the content of the bill as Rep. K.C. Becker of Boulder came out in support of both the legislation’s aim and language.
“The bill, if you read it, changes the fee for a very worthwhile cause from $3 to $4 dollars. That’s the only thing we’re voting on here, guys,” she said.
The measure passed in the House on a final vote of 42-20 and now heads to the Senate.
House okays fine instead of suspension for liquor license violations
Today the House gave initial approval to SB 54, a bill that would allow restaurants and bars that violate their liquor license to request a fine instead of getting their license suspended.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Dan Pabon of Denver, added that the bill was passed unanimously in the Senate. The measure got hearty approval on first vote in the House.