A controversial bill that would require vaccination for nearly all California children to attend school — both public and private — cleared the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday.
The committee voted 7-2 on the bill, co-authored by Sens. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) and Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica). Both Democrats and Republicans supported the bill.
“It’s a strong sign that people want to be sure that we protect our kids, protect our schools and protect our communities from these preventable diseases,” Pan said of Wednesday’s vote.
It was the bill’s second hearing in a week by the committee. Last Wednesday, hundreds of people voiced their opposition to the bill, and it looked like the committee would kill it. Instead, Pan and Allen asked to hold the bill and crafted amendments letting families that opt out of vaccines homeschool their children together and allowing students seek independent study.
While the committee backed the bill’s advance, chairwoman Sen. Carol Liu (D-Glendale) noted the bill “still has a long way to go” and hinted that she wasn’t completely swayed that the proposed amendments are sufficient.
“In terms of public health, it’s necessary,” she said in reference to the bill, “but I am concerned about the rights of our parents.”
Opponents vowed to continue their fight. The bill now heads to the Senate Judiciary Committee for a hearing next week as part of a long legislative process. A long list of health groups and school districts back the bill.
“We will continue to show our strength, and we will continue to educate lawmakers and the public about why this is a bad bill,” said Jean Keese, a spokeswoman for the California Coalition for Health Choice.
The proposal was among several drafted across the nation in the wake of a measles outbreak that started at Disneyland and sickened more than 100 people in the U.S. and Mexico.
It would eliminate California’s personal-belief and religious exemptions so unvaccinated children would not be able to attend public or private schools. Medical waivers would only be available for children who have health problems.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.