Setting the stage Monday was state Sen. Richard Pan’s introduction of a bill that would supersede Gov. Gavin Newsom’s student COVID-19 vaccine mandate by eliminating the personal belief exemption — and requiring all kids in kindergarten to 12th grade to get the shot by Jan. 1, 2023. Under the Sacramento Democrat’s proposal, only students with rare medical exemptions could opt out.
It’s the latest bill to emerge from a vaccine work group Democratic lawmakers formed last week. On Thursday, state Sen. Scott Wiener of San Francisco unveiled a proposal that would allow kids 12 and up to get vaccinated, including against COVID-19, without parental consent or knowledge.
And more are in the works: According to California Healthline, lawmakers are weighing introducing bills that would remove religious exemptions for health care workers and require proof of COVID-19 vaccination to enter almost all public places, including workplaces, schools, malls, museums and restaurants.
The bold proposals are likely to intensify California’s already fierce vaccine wars, which saw an anti-vaccine protestor in 2019 throw a cup of menstrual blood onto state senators, including Pan. And, if the bills pass the Legislature, they could put Gov. Gavin Newsom in a tough spot. Although the governor has defended his first-in-the-nation vaccine mandates, he’s also taken pains to emphasize that the personal belief exemption for students leaves “plenty of latitude for families to make decisions.”
- Catherine Flores Martin, executive director of the California Immunization Coalition: “He’s trying to be comforting and non-confrontational, but it sends a message that if you don’t want to get the vaccine, don’t get it. Gov. Newsom struggles with this — he’s trying to have it both ways.”
Meanwhile, a torrent of contentious bills that failed to pass either the state Assembly or Senate last year face a Jan. 31 deadline to clear their house of origin and stay alive. They include:
- A proposal to create a state-funded single-payer health care system, which the powerful California Chamber of Commerce has designated as a “job killer.”
- A bill that would allow California to negotiate wages, hours and work conditions for the entire fast food industry.
- A proposal that would force property owners in rent-controlled jurisdictions to hold onto their buildings for at least five years before invoking the Ellis Act, which gives them a path to exit the rental market and evict tenants.
- And a bill that would tighten state oversight of nursing homes.
The coronavirus bottom line: As of Sunday, California had 7,419,643 confirmed cases (+4.2% from previous day) and 78,101 deaths (+0.5% from previous day), according to state data. CalMatters is also tracking coronavirus hospitalizations by county.