By Doug Porter
Gov. Jerry Brown signed off yesterday on legislation giving California one of the most far-reaching vaccination laws in the nation. Religious and personal-belief exemptions for schoolchildren will be phased out, starting next year.
Getting this bill passed turned out to be a major political battle. The combination of paranoia about government (on the right) and corporate greed (on the left) mixed with a solid dash of unfounded health concerns ended up being a recipe for political passion rarely seen on the legislative floor.
The anti-vaxxers, as they are popularly called, viewed this legislation as a battle for the lives of their children and the liberties of the nation. They’ve indicated that litigation will be their next step.
The Sacramento Bee account of the day the bill passed captured some of the drama:
After the intense hours-long hearings, after the floods of furious parents descending on the state Capitol, after a wrenching Assembly floor debate balancing public health against parental rights, Senate Bill 277 had arrived at the brink of the governor’s desk.
As Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, gave a closing Assembly floor speech, Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, the bill’s oft-vilified champion, stood at the front of the chambers and watched intently, nodding along.
Opponents wearing red, the color they chose to identify themselves, looked on from the balcony. In the rear of the chambers, 7-year-old Rhett Krawitt, who became a public face for the argument of getting vaccinations to protect those who cannot because his leukemia-weakened immune system can’t handle shots, perched on this mother’s lap.
The vote flashed cross the electronic board. The final tally: 46-30 in favor.
The Reuters story added more insight:
State Senator Richard Pan, a Democrat and a pediatrician, said the measles outbreak led him to switch his top legislative priority for this year from a new tobacco tax to a stringent vaccination requirement for children in school.
“The opposition was very intense, and they engaged in questionable tactics that increased the resolve of some of my colleagues to see this through,” the Sacramento lawmaker said.
Pan, who received death threats during the fight over the bill, said his colleagues and the governor stayed focused on the ultimate goal of protecting childrens’ health.
For Sensible Californians…
Medical exceptions will be allowed for children entering day care and kindergarten, meaning physician-certified allergies and immune-system deficiencies will be exempted.
Parents will be allowed to decline to vaccinate children who attend private home-based schools or public independent studies off campus.
More than 80,000 students are potentially impacted by this law, which became a priority for legislators following a measles outbreak that started at Disneyland in December and quickly spread across the West, infecting 150 people.
A spreadsheet published by the Los Angeles Times earlier this year pointed to eight hundred schools state-wide with immunization levels below those considered necessary for the herd immunity needed to protect at risk individuals.
The Sacramento Bee editorialized, praising the legislation’s passage and condemning the tactics of the anti-vaxxers:
So for sensible Californians, this law will change nothing. Unfortunately, the vaccine resisters have made it clear that they won’t just take their lollipop from Dr. Brown and go home now.
Abetted by the state chiropractic lobby, they already have tarred the new law’s backers as fascists, racists, tools of Big Pharma and child abusers. They have stalked lobbyists, threatened state lawmakers and deployed crazy theatrics. Even as Brown read the bill,white-clad protesters stood vigil outside the Capitol, singing the anti-authoritarian anthem from “The Hunger Games” movies. (“Hunger Games” is fiction, like many anti-vax claims.)
Now there is talk of lawsuits, and we expect a new bill will arise next year to weaken this one. Meanwhile, Sen. Richard Pan, who should get combat pay for the wrath he endured as the bill’s most visible co-author, could face a recall in his Sacramento district.
Pan and others – Sen. Ben Allen, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, Assemblywoman Catharine Baker, Sen. Bill Monning, to name a few – deserve gratitude, not cheap payback. Standing up for science shouldn’t take this much courage.
Early on in this battle I reviewed the science on the subject of vaccinations and checked out the arguments of those opposed to mandated immunizations. I concluded then and still believe that the anti-vaxxer cause was not rational. Unable to change minds in the legislature with facts or logic, they went on to prove my supposition by way of the tactics they used.
I expect the next course of action by the anti-vaxxers will be to accuse the supporters of this legislation of secretly being the instigators of those acts of cowardice.
I’m sure I can expect an email or two accusing me of being a shill for Big Pharma.
So be it.
Black Churches Matter
In the wake the shootings in Charleston, there appear to have been several arson-related fires aimed at Black congregations in the South.
Last night social media accounts were full of anger concerning what seemed to be the latest incident. This morning brought a different take, from the Associated Press:
A fire that destroyed a black church that 20 years ago was a target of the Ku Klux Klan was not the work of an arsonist, a federal law enforcement source said Wednesday.
Preliminary indications are that the fire at the Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church in Greeleyville was not intentionally set and was not arson, the source said. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the case publicly. The fire is still under investigation, the official said.
Greeleyville is a town of about 400 people around 50 miles north of Charleston, where a pastor and eight members of a historic black church were fatally shot June 17 in what authorities are investigating as a hate crime.
Church fires, as several reports have pointed out, are more common than most people realize. While there may not have been seven incidents of arson aimed at historically Black churches recently, there are three being investigated as arson by the feds. And even one hate crime arsonist is too many.
Goldie Taylor’s analysis at Blue Nation Review is worth reading for perspective on what’s going on:
The hashtag #WhoIsBurningBlackChurches emerged over the weekend, catching the attention of news producers and reporters. Twitter users directed their frustration to news networks and federal officials online. The FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, have since joined investigations in Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina…
…Churches are regarded as “soft target”, because strangers can come and go without question and facilities usually have little security. Larger congregations tend to invest in surveillance systems and other pastors, including Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, have armed security details. Alberta King, mother of Dr. Martin Luther King, was assassinated as she sat at the church organ in mid 70s. Just after the 2008 election of President Obama, a church in Springfield, Massachusetts was targeted.
“For decades we’ve had this in our society. It’s something law enforcement has to pay attention to,” [former FBI agent Mike] German said. “I believe law enforcement has to try to understand this problem a little better.”
Also, the Huffington Post has an article cataloging 91 violent attacks on Black churches since 1956.
More Bad News for the Border Patrol
Yesterday we learned that some of the union guys at the Border Patrol have connected with anti-immigrant hate groups.
Now two other reports are casting this agency in bad light. A report from an advisory panel made the news nationally, raising questions about the integrity and practices of Customs and Border Protection.
From the Los Angeles Times:
U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the nation’s largest law enforcement agency, is vulnerable to “systematic corruption” by drug cartels, smugglers and other criminals, and investigations of its internal abuses are “chronically slow,” according to a Homeland Security Department report that reveals glaring problems in the agencies that police the nation’s borders.
The abuses are so widespread that Customs and Border Protection, the parent agency of the Border Patrol, should add nearly 350 criminal investigators to target internal corruption and the use of excessive and unnecessary force against migrants, the report concludes. That would boost the internal affairs roster by nearly 166%.
Arrests of border agents and customs officers “far exceed, on a per capita basis, such arrests at other law enforcement agencies,” the 29-page report notes.
And then there’s this bit of damning news by way of Marty Graham at the Reader:
A Border Patrol union meeting on June 9 ended in a parking-lot brawl, a police report, and a series of requests for temporary restraining orders among current and former officials in the union. On Tuesday (June 30), all five federal agents went to court in Chula Vista and agreed to dismiss the restraining order requests they’d filed against each other.
There’s more to this story at the Reader, and, believe me, none of it makes the Border Patrol look good.
Dumping the Donald (Trump)
On This Day: 1929 – Some 1,100 streetcar workers went on strike in New Orleans, spurring the creation of the po’ boy sandwich by a local sandwich shop owner and one-time streetcar man. “Whenever we saw one of the striking men coming,” Bennie Martin later recalled, “one of us would say, ‘Here comes another poor boy.’” Martin and his wife fed any striker who showed up. 1956 – Elvis Presley appeared on “The Steve Allen Show.” He was told not to dance and Allen had him sing “Hound Dog” to a real basset hound wearing tails. 1980 – President Jimmy Carter signed legislation that provided for 2 acres of land near the Lincoln Memorial for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
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