Capitol Alert

AM Alert: California vaccine bill gets first test

In this Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015, photo, a single-dose of the measles-mumps-rubella virus vaccine live, or MMR vaccine is ready in Northridge, Calif.
In this Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015, photo, a single-dose of the measles-mumps-rubella virus vaccine live, or MMR vaccine is ready in Northridge, Calif. AP

Better arrive early if you want a seat at the much-anticipated hearing for Senate Bill 277, which would nix the exemption some parents use to avoid vaccinating their kids.

Since lawmakers proposed the bill against a backdrop of resurgent diseases like measles, the range of reactions has been loud and vigorous. Health officials, lawmakers and parents warn that non-vaccinators are endangering public health by skipping shots. Vaccine skeptics reject the scientific consensus on vaccines and rail against the government dictating what they do with their kids’ bodies.

Today comes the first hurdle: a hearing before the Senate Health Committee. Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, a pediatrician who is carrying SB 277, sits on the committee along with three other co-authors. So the bill’s prospects look good. But you can count on some powerful, impassioned testimony from people on both sides of this one. A pre-hearing rally by opponents on the west steps will feature Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

TOBACC-NO: California boasts some of the lowest smoking rates in the nation, but health officials and legislative allies are determined to do more. A coalition that includes the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association and the California Medical Association will join lawmakers today to promote bills that “take the fight directly to Big Tobacco,” according to a press release, by raising the smoking age to 21, tossing chewing tobacco from baseball and apply more tobacco-related restrictions to e-cigarettes, among other things.

TAKE NO HIKE: The prospect of higher University of California tuition jumped onto the legislative agenda before this session started and inflamed both legislative leaders and Gov. Jerry Brown. Today Senate Democrats’ alternative plan goes before the Senate Education Committee. Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, briefed CSU officials on the bill during their lobby day yesterday.

LABOR’S LOVE: Two union-backed labor bills of note coming up today: legislation again boosting California’s minimum wage goes before the Senate Labor and Industrial Relations Committee this morning, and a bill classifying NFL cheerleaders as employees gets its first vote in the Assembly Labor And Employment Committee this afternoon.

Call Jeremy B. White, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 326-5543.

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