As California pushes for more residents to receive the COVID-19 jab, Democratic lawmakers introduced a series of new bills to achieve higher vaccination rates among Californians. However, critics are concerned that the laws will lead to infringement on individual freedom.
Assembly Bill 2098: Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Campbell)
Low introduced the bill on Feb. 15 to deter licensed physicians and surgeons who spread COVID-19 misinformation. Under this law, any care provider caught promoting disinformation will be subject to disciplinary actions by the Medical Board of California or the Osteopathic Medical Board of California.
“The spread of misinformation and disinformation about COVID-19 and vaccination continues to jeopardize public health,” Low wrote on Twitter on Feb. 15. “The spreading of inaccurate COVID-19 information further erodes public trust in the medical profession & puts all patients at risk.”
Some commenters immediately responded to Low on Twitter asking for further clarification, saying that the proposed legislation doesn’t have a clear definition of “misinformation” and can lead to the state’s health agency interfering with doctors’ judgment in medical practices.
“Who defines what constitutes misinformation?” a commenter wrote. “Would doctors not be allowed to form their own opinions from reviewing studies, data, and evidence?”
Senator Melissa Melendez (R-Lake Elsinore) also wrote on Twitter the same day that the bill would “punish doctors if they dare provide information to their patients that differs from the state narrative. So if you need medical advice, just ask the state medical board.”
Senate Bill 1018: Sen. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento)
Pan introduced the bill on Feb. 15 to require online platforms, such as social media, to publicly report how their algorithms rank and promote information and to share their generated data for “legitimate research purposes,” which could “combat the spread of dangerous COVID-19 misinformation and protect public health,” according to a Feb. 15 press release.
“Transparency will allow the public to make informed decisions, and lawmakers and researchers need this necessary information so we can hold online platforms accountable and also set standards,” Pan said.
Pan also authored on Jan. 24 a law (Senate Bill 871) to require all K–12 students in the state to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, which opponents said would remove parents from the “equation” of the lives of their children.
“This is wrong and an unconscionable overreach into the family over a virus that poses very minimal threat to young children,” Assemblyman James Gallagher (R-Yuba City) wrote on Twitter. “The government doesn’t want your family to have a choice.”
Assembly Bill 1993: Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland)
Wicks introduced Assembly Bill 1993 on Feb. 11 to mandate all businesses in California to require all employees and independent contractors to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
“The pathway to endemic is through vaccines – and to get there, California needs consistency and certainty,” Wicks said in a statement.
Sen. Scott Wiener, co-author of the bill, applauded the legislation as an effort to return to “normalcy.”
“I’m proud to co-author this legislation,” Wiener wrote on Twitter on Feb. 11. “The pathway to normalcy is through broad vaccination. Period.”
Assemblyman Kevin Kiley (R-Rocklin) said the pending legislation “would make all California employers force their workers.”
“The fanatics at our Capital need to give it a rest,” Kiley wrote on Twitter.
Weiner also proposed Senate Bill 866 on Jan. 20 that would allow children 12 and older to receive a vaccination without their parents’ consent.
Assembly Bill 1797: Assemblywoman Akilah Weber (D-San Diego)
Weber introduced on Feb. 7 a bill that would give school districts the right to access the state’s immunization registry to see who is vaccinated against COVID-19. Currently, schools already have access to vaccination records for diseases such as measles or mumps, but not COVID-19.
“Schools have played such a vital role in keeping our students safe and we know that they can be even more effective just by having the basic tools to easily check if students are immunized,” Weber wrote on Twitter.
Weber’s bill came as San Diego Unified School District is appealing a lawsuit against its vaccine mandate.
The lawsuit, filed in October 2021 by parent advocacy group Let Them Choose, argued that only the state, and not the school board, has the power to require a vaccine for on-campus learning and said that the district doesn’t allow for personal belief exemptions as required by state law.
San Diego Superior Court Judge John Meyer tentatively ruled in the group’s favor on Dec. 20, 2021, and the school district appealed the decision the very next day for the case to be reviewed by an appellate court.
The bill proposed by Weber “is just kind of another example of the state really getting ahead of themselves and being too sure of themselves and overreaching,” Sharon McKeeman of Let Them Choose told CBS8.
These bills are likely to be heard within the upcoming months.