In Salem, Democrats Will Scrap Controversial Vaccine Bill to Appease Republicans
SALEM – In a dramatic turn of events, Senate Democrats agreed Monday to kill a mandatory school vaccination bill that would have given Oregon some of the country's strictest child vaccination laws.
Democrats agreed to scuttle House Bill 3063 as part of a deal to bring Republicans back to the Capitol, several Democrats in the Senate and House confirmed to The Lund Report on Monday, a week after Republicans fled Salem to deny Democrats a quorum in protest of a $2 billion tax package for schools.
The deal, which would also shelve a series of firearm regulations, was first reported by Willamette Week. It marks a sudden and stunning end to House Bill 3063, which would have removed non-medical exemptions for children to attend public and private schools, or licensed daycare facilities.
A vast majority of health care practitioners lauded HB 3063 as a common sense public health measure, given recent large measles outbreaks in Clark County and across the country that have been attributed to a rise in unfounded skepticism about vaccines' effectiveness and side effects. The bill would have reversed the state's long-standing practice of exempting children whose parents have religious or philosophical objections to vaccines, requiring school-aged children to be vaccinated against measles and other preventable diseases like mumps, rubella, polio and tetanus.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill last week removing such exemptions solely for the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, amid a wave of more than 800 measles cases nationwide this year – the highest number in 25 years.
Oregon's law would have required children attending public schools to have the full schedule of vaccines approved under state and federal guidelines or a medical exemption. Those in online schools would have been exempted.
The proposal shocked HB 3063's opponents, many of them parents of the roughly 31,000 Oregon children that aren't fully vaccinated according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's recommended schedule. Opponents held two large rallies outside the Capitol in March and April, calling fears about illnesses like measles overblown and vowing to fight what they saw as the government encroaching on their freedom to make medical decisions for their children.
More than 100 opponents filled the House chamber last week when lawmakers passed HB 3063 in a 35-25 vote, sending it to the Senate, where it appeared likely to pass with most Democrats in support and Republicans opposed.
Instead, Gov. Kate Brown won't get a chance to follow Inslee, despite saying she would have signed HB 3063. A Senate Democrat said Brown briefed lawmakers about the deal to kill the bill in an effort to salvage the school funding package Monday morning, and Rep. Cheri Helt, R-Bend, who co-sponsored the bill, confirmed its death in a social media post several minutes before Republicans returned to the Senate to vote on the school funding tax.
“HB 3063 was about saving lives, protecting children+ensuring shared immunity from dangerous/preventable diseases,” Helt wrote. “Disappointing that the loudest/most extreme voices in our politics prevailed+the sensible-center/thoughtful policy-making lost.”
Democrats and Republicans were keeping tight-lipped about the agreement. Senate Democrats, Republicans, Senate President Peter Courtney's office and a spokeswoman for Brown didn't respond to requests for comment Monday afternoon.
You can reach Elon Glucklich at elo[email protected].
May 13 2019