Colo. House advances vaccination bill
The bill makes it more difficult for Colorado parents to get vaccine exemptions for their kids
The Denver Post
The Colorado House of Representatives gave final approval Saturday to a bill that makes it more difficult for Colorado parents to get vaccine exemptions for their kids.
But the future of the legislation remains in doubt after Gov. Jared Polis voiced disapproval of the bill’s current language earlier in the week and Senate Democrats struggle to get through all their work by Friday.
During a rare Saturday meeting, the House voted 39-20 to approve the bill sponsored by state Rep. Kyle Mullica, a Northglenn Democrat.
“This bill is about safety. It’s about protecting our kids,” Mullica said. “It’s about creating a safe environment for them where they can’t catch a preventable disease.”
Support for the bill from Colorado’s health care community has taken a tone of urgency amid a national measles outbreak.
House Republicans, on the other hand, have fought the bill, arguing it would be an infringement of parental rights.
“I want to make sure parents know you are being heard,” state Rep. Shane Sandridge said, addressing the dozens of parents in the House gallery for the vote. “You have made a difference. We are fighting for your rights. You know what’s best for your children.”
Opponents of the bill may yet have an ally in Polis. The Democratic governor told a crowd at a health care town hall earlier in the week that he did not support a key provision of the bill that requires parents to file exemptions with the state in person. Currently, they need only provide written notice to the school district upon registration.
Following the House vote Saturday, Polis stuck to his position that the bill needs reworked while also saying that improving the state’s relatively low immunization rate is a major priority for him.
“In our administration, one of the top three goals of the Department of Public Health and Environment is to increase the immunization rate,” he said in a statement. “While we have been focused on using our existing resources to increase vaccinations, I’m excited that members of the legislature share our priority, and there is much that we agree with rather than disagree with in the current legislative effort. We are hoping that the proponents are able to address remaining issues in the bill and work with us to improve public health.”
Hospitals, physicians and other groups said Friday they support the bill as is and expressed dismay about Polis’ stance, particularly in light of a national measles outbreak.
“We urge the Governor to reconsider his position on provisions in HB-1312 to protect the health of the public,” said Dr. Zach Wachtl, president of the Colorado Academy of Family Physicians.
The Centers for Disease Control said recently that the number of reported measles cases in the United States is the highest it has been since the disease was declared eliminated in 2000. The CDC has recorded 695 measles cases in 22 states this year, including one adult case in Colorado.
Lawmakers must finish their work by Friday, giving the Senate just a handful of days to hear and vote on a bill that has drawn hundreds of supporters and opponents to the Capitol.
Even if Democrats pass it in the Senate, where they hold a much narrower majority than in the House, Polis could veto his own party’s bill. It likely wouldn’t get to Polis’ desk before the end of the session, so lawmakers would have no opportunity to override a veto.
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