New­som signs vac­cine laws af­ter Capi­tol ar­rests, protests

The Tribune (SLO) - - Front Page - BY SOPHIA BOLLAG AND BRYAN AN­DER­SON

Cal­i­for­nia fam­i­lies, doc­tors and schools will soon have to fol­low new rules re­strict­ing med­i­cal ex­emp­tions for vac­cines un­der two new laws passed by law­mak­ers and signed by Gov. Gavin New­som on Mon­day.

New­som ap­proved the bills af­ter a day of rau­cous protests at the Capi­tol, where op­po­nents of the leg­is­la­tion shut down both cham­bers of the Leg­is­la­ture and blocked en­trances to the build­ing, prompt­ing at least seven ar­rests.

Hun­dreds of pro­test­ers filled the hall­ways and drowned out leg­isla­tive de­bate with their chants, but law­mak­ers in both cham­bers still passed the sec­ond of the two con­tested bills Mon­day.

The au­thor of both bills, Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacra­mento, ar­gues they are nec­es­sary to pre­vent fraud­u­lent ex­emp­tions some doc­tors are sell­ing to fam­i­lies of chil­dren who should be vac­ci­nated. The mea­sures build on a 2015 law that pre­vents par­ents from skip­ping vac­cines for their kids based solely on their per­sonal be­liefs.

“I thank the gover­nor for stand­ing with science, and once again mak­ing Cal­i­for­nia a leader in safeguardi­ng chil­dren and com­mu­ni­ties,” Pan said in a state­ment Mon­day evening

af­ter New­som signed the bills. “It is my hope that par­ents whose vul­ner­a­ble chil­dren could die from vac­cine-preventabl­e dis­eases will be re­as­sured that we are protecting those com­mu­ni­ties that have been left vul­ner­a­ble be­cause a few un­scrupu­lous doc­tors are un­der­min­ing com­mu­nity immunity.”

New­som’s sig­na­tures come af­ter he pub­licly wa­vered about the main vac­cine ex­emp­tion bill, Se­nate Bill 276. He first voiced doubts about the bill in June, then said he would sign it af­ter Pan agreed to amend­ments. New­som re­versed course again last week af­ter law­mak­ers sent that bill to his desk, say­ing he wanted even more changes.

Law­mak­ers scram­bled to put to­gether a sec­ond bill, Se­nate Bill 714, to make the changes New­som sought, in­clud­ing re­duc­ing li­a­bil­ity for doc­tors and pre­serv­ing some ex­ist­ing ex­emp­tions.

“This leg­is­la­tion pro­vides new tools to bet­ter pro­tect pub­lic health, and does so in a way that en­sures par­ents, doc­tors, pub­lic health of­fi­cials and school ad­min­is­tra­tors all know the rules of the road mov­ing for­ward,” New­som said in a state­ment Mon­day evening.

The changes didn’t sat­isfy op­po­nents, how­ever.

Out­side the gover­nor’s of­fice Mon­day morn­ing, many held signs crit­i­ciz­ing SB 276 and waved up­side­down U.S. flags, which vac­cine op­po­nents have adopted as one of their sym­bols. Some pro­test­ers brought chil­dren, who played in the hall out­side the gover­nor’s of­fice or were pushed in strollers through the build­ing.

“Veto the bill! Amend­ments are worse!” pro­test­ers chanted.

Chelsea Ha­ley, a Cal­i­for­nia High­way Patrol officer, said three demon­stra­tors were ar­rested around 10 a.m. for block­ing law­mak­ers’ en­trance to their parking garage.

Three more peo­ple were ar­rested at 11:45 a.m. be­cause the CHP said they blocked en­try to the south side of the build­ing. An ad­di­tional man was es­corted out of the Se­nate gallery and ar­rested at 3:55 p.m. be­cause he al­legedly dis­rupted the ses­sion by shout­ing at law­mak­ers. All seven ac­tivists re­port­edly refused to leave when of­fi­cers at the Capi­tol directed them to do so, the CHP said.

Heidi Munoz Gleis­ner, one of the group’s lead­ers, said two ac­tivists chained them­selves to the south door. CHP con­firmed Gleis­ner’s ac­count.

“There was no­body scream­ing any pro­fan­i­ties. There was no harm to the doors. They were not hurt in any way, shape or form,” Munoz Gleis­ner said. “It’s a way of mak­ing a state­ment be­cause our re­quests are fall­ing on deaf ears. Our leg­is­la­tors have ab­so­lutely failed us.”

Law­mak­ers in the As­sem­bly passed the sup­ple­men­tal leg­is­la­tion SB 714 on a 43-14 vote Mon­day af­ter­noon. That prompted scream­ing from dozens of pro­test­ers in the gallery above the As­sem­bly floor. Un­able to con­vince them to be quiet, law­mak­ers broke for re­cess as the gallery pro­test­ers chanted, “We will not com­ply!”

The pro­test­ers then shut down the state Se­nate, chant­ing and scream­ing in the gallery un­til CHP of­fi­cers told them to leave or face ar­rest. Later that af­ter­noon, the Se­nate also passed the bill over ob­jec­tions from sev­eral Repub­li­can sen­a­tors, who ar­gued the rushed leg­is­la­tion didn’t face ad­e­quate pub­lic scru­tiny.

The vac­cine pro­test­ers com­peted for at­ten­tion at the Capi­tol with sev­eral other groups Mon­day, in­clud­ing both sup­port­ers and op­po­nents of As­sem­bly Bill 5, a pro­posed law that would ex­pand which Cal­i­for­nia work­ers are con­sid­ered em­ploy­ees. Other ad­vo­cates in the build­ing ral­lied in sup­port of As­sem­bly Bill 1482 — a plan to con­trol rental rates and pre­vent an­nual hikes from cer­tain prop­erty own­ers from ex­ceed­ing 5 per­cent plus in­fla­tion.

RICH PEDRONCELL­I AP

Cal­i­for­nia High­way Patrol of­fi­cers take into cus­tody an op­po­nent of re­cently passed leg­is­la­tion to tighten the rules on giving ex­emp­tions for vac­ci­na­tions, af­ter she ca­bled her­self to the doors of the state Capi­tol in Sacra­mento on Mon­day.

RICH PEDRONCELL­I AP

Op­po­nents of re­cently passed leg­is­la­tion to tighten the rules on giving ex­emp­tions for vac­ci­na­tions demon­strate in the As­sem­bly gallery af­ter law­mak­ers ap­proved the com­pan­ion bill at the Capi­tol in Sacra­mento on Mon­day. The com­pan­ion mea­sure con­tained changes de­manded by Gov. Gavin New­som as a con­di­tion of sign­ing SB 276, which passed last week.

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