Yesterday’s action in the Colorado Senate featured an hours-long debate over a host of amendments to the state’s Long Appropriations budget bill, commonly known as the “Long Bill.” As the Durango Herald’s Peter Marcus reports today, one of those amendments represented a last-ditch attempt by anti-vaccination Republican legislators led by Sen. Tim Neville to defund the state’s public health immunization tracking system:
A Republican proposed stripping more than $1.2 million from a program tracking immunizations, another hot-button issue that has not seen progress by the split Legislature. The amendment failed.
“This amendment rolls back … hiring four more bureaucrats to expand a program that basically tracks vaccinations, even though your doctor already does that … your school system already does that,” said Sen. Tim Neville, R-Littleton, sponsor of the amendment.
But Sen. Irene Aguilar, D-Denver, a physician, said she was offended to hear about a lack of faith in the medical community after breakthroughs in vaccinations that eradicated many diseases.
“I’m disappointed that the integrity of physicians has been questioned here as a whole,” Aguilar said. “To imply that an entire profession … is playing a hoodwink game on people and lying to them … is purely offensive.”
We’ve edited down the lengthy debate yesterday over Amendment 39 to the Long Bill to this four minutes of video–video we believe every voter in Colorado should watch. The heart of this clip is a lengthy rant from GOP Sen. Kevin Lundberg against tracking immunization data, followed by Democratic Sens. Irene Aguilar (a doctor) and Rollie Heath. The contrast between Lundberg’s angry, arm-waving paranoia and the defense of modern medicine offered by Aguilar and Heath is…well, for us, it’s pretty fundamental. Watch for yourself:
The biggest battle over immunizations in Colorado this year has already concluded, after the so-called “Parent’s Bill of Rights” died in a House committee following a high-profile battle that did disproportionate political harm to Senate Republicans who backed it. The immunization debate resurfaced in Colorado just as a measles outbreak in California was making headlines, and called attention to our state last-place ranking nationally for immunizations against key preventable diseases. “Moderate” Senate Republicans like Ellen Roberts were angrily called out by their local editorial boards for supporting the bill, and fellow Republicans like Lundberg and Sen. Laura Waters Woods undermined Roberts’ protestations that this was not an “anti-vaxxer bill”–by continually bringing the subject back to the very immunization paranoia Roberts denied was the motive.
In an off-year legislative session full of empty rhetoric, with split chambers of the General Assembly noisily battling to draw after draw, the fight over Colorado’s already-lax immunization policies is something we do believe voters will remember–or will at least make for powerful talking points in the next election. Irrational fear of vaccinations doesn’t always break cleanly along partisan lines in popular culture; but at least in Colorado, Republicans have taken clear political ownership of this fringe movement.
And that’s going to cost them.