SACRAMENTO – Parents who don’t have their children vaccinated will have to get a note from the doctor’s office before enrolling their children in school under a bill that Gov. Jerry Brown announced Sunday he has signed into law.
AB2109 will require parents who enroll students who have not received the required public school vaccines to get a waiver from a physician or a nurse practitioner saying they have received information about the benefits and risks of immunization.
It was one of about 100 bills that Brown was considering on Sunday, his last day to act on bills sent to him by the Legislature this fall. He also signed a bill that could one day free some criminals who were sentenced as juveniles to life in prison, and another making California the first state to ban a form of psychotherapy aimed at making gay teenagers straight. He vetoed bills including one that would have let judges declare that some California children have more than two legal parents and another increasing the media’s access to prison inmates.
Brown signed the vaccination bill amid what Assemblyman Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, called the largest national whooping cough epidemic in 50 years.
Preventable diseases can spread not only to those who choose not to be vaccinated, but to those who can’t be immunized including infants, cancer patients receiving chemotherapy, AIDS patients or those who are allergic to vaccines, Pan said in a statement.
The new requirement will go into effect Jan. 1, 2014.
Brown said in a signing statement that the law still allows parents to decide against having their children vaccinated, while ensuring that they make informed decisions about both the risks and benefits.
He directed the state Department of Public Health to oversee the policy to make sure it doesn’t overburden parents. He also directed the department to allow for a separate religious exemption on the waiver form, so that people whose religious beliefs prohibit immunizations won’t have to get a medical professional’s signature.
California Medical Association President James Hay called the bill “a huge step in the right direction for public health.”
Opponents, including former “Saturday Night Live” actor Rob Schneider of Pacifica, said it infringes on parental rights and increases medical costs for families.
“There shouldn’t be government coercion to force parents to jump another hoop to have to make decisions on … what’s the best interest of their child,” Schneider told The Sacramento Bee earlier this month.
Among other notable bills signed into law by the governor this fall:
Pensions: AB340 is projected to save taxpayers billions of dollars over time by reforming the state’s public pension system. The bill by Assemblyman Warren Furutani, D-Lakewood, raises retirement ages for new employees depending on their job, caps the annual pension payout, prohibits numerous abuses of the system and requires higher payments from workers who are not already contributing half of their retirement costs.
California also will create the nation’s first state-administered retirement savings program for private-sector workers under SB1234 by Sen. Kevin De Leon, D-Los Angeles.
Workers’ compensation: SB863 is designed to cut costs for businesses by $1 billion next year while increasing benefits to permanently disabled workers by $860 million annually. The bill by Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, limits workers compensation litigation, over the objections of attorneys for injured workers.
State parks: Several bills will keep California’s 278 state parks operating while improving spending oversight after parks officials were caught hiding $54 million in two special funds. The bills place a two-year moratorium on park closures, give the parks new ways to raise money, and require finance officials to compare their annual reports on how much money is in more than 500 special funds. The bills include AB1478 by Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield, D-Woodland Hills; AB1589 by Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; and AB1487 by the Assembly Budget Committee.
Hunting: Using dogs to hunt bears and bobcats will no longer be legal in California under SB1221 by Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance. The bill still allows using dogs to track an animal that is causing a nuisance, for research or if an animal enters a dog owner’s property.
Meanwhile, the Department of Fish and Game will become the Department of Fish and Wildlife under AB2402 by Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, as part of a larger effort to broaden the department’s responsibilities and increase its funding.
Youth sentencing: SB9, by Democratic Sen. Leland Yee, of San Francisco, could allow the resentencing of some criminals who were sentenced as juveniles to life in prison. The bill will let the inmates ask judges to reconsider their sentences after they serve at least 15 years in prison. Judges could then reduce the no-parole sentence to 25 years-to-life if the inmate shows remorse and is taking steps toward rehabilitation.
Gay marriage: Religious officials who do not want to perform gay weddings will not have to worry about jeopardizing their nonprofit status under SB1140 by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco.
Gay therapy: California will become the first state to ban a form of psychotherapy aimed at making gay teenagers straight under SB1172 by Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance.
Medical Parole: County jails could release terminally ill or permanently incapacitated prisoners under SB1462 by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco. The bill lets counties use the same compassionate release and medical parole programs that currently can be used to release state prison inmates before they complete their sentences.
Among bills vetoed by the governor:
Multiple parents: SB1476 would have allowed judges to legally recognize multiple parents when it is in a child’s best interest to have more than two parental relationships. Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, says his bill recognized that times and families have changed. But Brown feared the bill “may have unintended consequences.”
Prison access: Reporters could have requested interviews with specific prison inmates under AB1270 by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco. Brown said the bill could give criminals “celebrity status through repeated appearances on television (that) will glorify their crimes and hurt victims and their families.” Eight similar bills were vetoed by previous governors dating to 1998.
Job search: AB1450 by Democratic Assemblyman Mike Allen, D-Santa Rosa, would have prohibited employers from saying in job postings that they will consider only applicants who are already employed. Brown said the bill “could lead to unnecessary confusion.”
Flu shots: SB1318 by Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, would have required health officials to develop a policy that would let hospitals reach a 90 percent vaccination goal for having employees vaccinated against the flu. But lawmakers stripped out a provision requiring health care workers who don’t get a flu shot to wear a mask after the California Nurses Association objected. Brown says it’s unreasonable to make compliance mandatory.