As the Denver Post’s Saja Hindi reports today, the briefly reanimated 2020 session of the Colorado General Assembly is thankfully set to include continued debate on Senate Bill 20-163, proposed legislation to help improve the state of Colorado’s abysmal childhood vaccination rates:
[Rep. Kyle] Mullica is one of the sponsors Senate Bill 163, aimed at increasing Colorado’s vaccination rates — the lowest in the nation — by making it harder for people to claim non-medical exemptions. The bill was making its way through the legislature — and had passed through the Senate — before the session was suspended due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
When lawmakers returned with a goal of finishing their work as quickly as possible, it wasn’t clear whether the bill with vocal opposition would still get a vote. This week, leadership agreed to add the bill to the calendar, and it’s scheduled to be heard Sunday at noon by the Health and Insurance Committee.
The announcement that SB-163 will be heard in the House Health and Insurance Committee on Sunday as the House tries to maximize productivity while limiting the duration of the restarted session has, not altogether unsurprisingly, convinced Colorado’s highly militant and conspiracy-minded minority of “anti-vaxxer” activists that the fix is in:
This Sunday the @COHouseDem have decided to call the most controversial bill of the year to the table. #SB163 will REMOVE the legislative process for adding vaccines to the state school requirements. Applies to homeschool too. Flu, HPV, COVID, all will be mandated. #coleg pic.twitter.com/DXe5jUChGw
— Tara Eveland, Certified Cannacian (@shoptaraeveland) June 5, 2020
Anyone who is familiar with the language of SB-163 already knows, there is simply no truth to the charge that “Flu, HPV, COVID” vaccines “all will be mandated.” But this is representative of the reality-detached nonsense that typified the hours-long hearings over this bill in the Colorado Senate prior to the pandemic-forced adjournment. Although the debate over vaccination has not always cleanly split along partisan lines, in Colorado the issue has become solidly partisan–with Republican lawmakers emerging as “anti-vaxxer” champions, led by some of the GOP caucus’s most visible figures like Rep. Dave Williams and Lori Saine.
This morning, House Republicans led by Minority Leader Patrick Neville are reportedly staging a 2019-style revolt against Sunday’s hearing, asking for legislation to be read at length and engaging in other procedural chicanery to slow the process down. Though the GOP minority can’t stop the bill from eventually passing, they do have the power to make a public stink on behalf of vaccine opponents as they did before the pandemic shut down the legislature.
And that’s when we get to finally ask–what are Republicans hoping to gain with this? Currying favor with a small minority of “anti-vaxxer” voters by outraging the vast majority at the worst possible moment just a few months ahead of an election is a political strategy that’s so bad it almost seems like a joke. Democrats should be overjoyed to let the GOP become the party of anti-vaxxers in the era of COVID-19.
Notwithstanding, of course, the health hazard of holding hearings with these people any day of the week.