SACRAMENTO, Calif. – California parents plan to recall state Sen. Richard Pan from office for authoring a bill that removes their ability to exempt their children from vaccinations for “personal beliefs.”
Senate Bill 277, which was approved by lawmakers and signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown last month, eliminates a “personal belief exemption” to childhood vaccines required by the state’s public schools. Debate over the bill drew thousands of angry parents to the capitol to testify against the measure at hearings, the Sacramento Bee reports.
Defeated but not deterred, opponents of Senate Bill 277 are now waging recall campaigns against Pan and other lawmakers, as well as a ballot initiative to repeal the new law. State election officials approved petition language to recall Pan this week, which means his critics must now collect 35,926 verified signatures to put his removal up for a vote.
“It is not so much about the vaccinations as it is about the defense of liberty,” Katherine Duran, a stay-at-home mom who helping to lead the recall, told the Bee. “The government, as a creature of the people, doesn’t have the right to tell the people what they can and can’t put in their bodies.”
Pan, a Democrat, is a former physician who dealt with the measles first-hand during an outbreak in Philadelphia in 1991 that sickened 900 people and killed nine children, the Los Angeles Daily News reports.
That experience, his two children in public school, and the measles outbreak at Disneyland about six months ago motivated Pan to author SB 277, he said.
“I’ve spent my whole life fighting for children’s health, so I know this was the right thing to do,” Pan told the news site. “How could I be deterred when I’d seen the danger of the diseases firsthand?”
Sacramento political consultant Rob Stutzman told the Bee the effort to recall Pan likely hangs on the group’s ability to raise money and estimates it will cost about $100,000 to put a recall up for a vote.
“It would seem to me it’s plausible they qualify this if they have the money,” he said.
Duran said recall proponents are relying on about 35 volunteers to collect signatures, with the support of donations “from around the country.”
Pan said he’s “not concerned” about the recall.
“I ran to be sure we keep our communities safe and healthy,” he said. “That’s what I ran on; that’s what I told the voters. And I feel that this bill, this law now, is actually a shining example of me keeping my promise to the people of the district.”
Another effort to recall state Sen. Bill Monning, a Carmel Democrat and strong supporter of SB 277, failed for lack of signatures. Others are working toward a recall of Sen. Andy Vidak, a Republican who broke with his party to back the bill, the Bee reports.
The day after Brown signed SB 277, former Assemlyman Tim Donnelly submitted paperwork to overturn it by public referendum.
“With the stroke of a pen, Gov. Jerry Brown signed away a parent’s rights to choose what’s best for their own child,” Donnelly said.
Opponents of the new law have until roughly the end of September to collect 365,880 valid signatures to put it up for a vote in the Nov. 1, 2016 election. If the repeal makes it on the ballot, SB 277 will not take effect until after the election, according to the Bee.