Things are winding down in Albany with speculation that legislators might call an end to the session before the scheduled date of June 20.
There are two reasons. First, one Senate Republican is away on military duty and that leaves them short of the majority they need to advance their agenda. Second, the temptation of leaving early looms larger in an election year, giving incumbents extra time to raise funds and travel through the district.
Those in leadership positions also know that there is little chance of movement on some of the larger issues — the Dream Act to let undocumented immigrants apply for financial aid for college, the Child Victims Act which would allow those who were sexually abused more time to go after their abusers, election reform to help improve the state’s dismal turnout and ethics reform, which has languished for several sessions now.
Better for both sides, the leaders are thinking, to call it a session and see who wins enough seats to gain control in November.
While the rush to adjourn is bad news for those who had hoped that some of the major legislation would advance, it is good news for those who worry about the health of their children. That’s because if they are not in Albany, legislators cannot pass a truly dangerous piece of legislation masquerading as a free speech effort.
The bill, with versions in both Senate and Assembly, would make it easier for parents to get exemptions from the requirements that children attending public schools be vaccinated.
If approved, this law would simplify the process so that all parents would have to do is fill out a form saying that they “hold a genuine and sincere religious belief that is contrary to such vaccination practices.”
The poster child for this movement is featured in a story on Politico, a boy whose mother is a believer that the body can fight off illness with love. Proponents, including one sponsor from the local area, Assemblyman Karl Brabenec, a Republican from Deerpark, think that is enough to overcome all of the objective, scientific proof that vaccines work, that they do not pose a danger to children and that the much more dangerous approach would be to expose millions of schoolchildren to deadly diseases.
Under present law, local schools make the decision on exemptions to the vaccination requirement and this law would take away that power, an odd stand for Brabanec and others who are always complaining about how Albany dictates the way we behave and who call for more, not less, local authority.
Some who believe in the need for vaccines sympathize with parents, especially those who cannot pay for private schooling and avoid the public school requirement. But as with most cases where rights collide, this is one that needs a more thorough debate.
Let those who want to allow more exemptions listen to the facts, to the real dangers of having children without protection attend public schools. Then let them try to balance the interests involved here, the beliefs of some families on the one hand and the health of the state’s public school students on the other.