Vt. House, Senate Compromise Falters On Immunization Bill

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There’s an old adage at the Statehouse that says it’s easier to kill a bill than it is to pass one and a small but very determined group of parents is currently demonstrating how that is true.

Earlier in the session, the Senate voted 25-to-4 to remove the philosophical exemption from the state’s mandatory childhood immunization law. Supporters said the bill was needed to help increase the state’s immunization compliance rate.

As the bill moved over to the House, a group of parents known as the Vermont Coalition for Vaccine Choice launched a determined campaign to keep the exemption.

On Monday, a House Senate conference committee agreed on a compromise to keep the exemption but the deal also included a provision that suspended the exemption if the state’s immunization rate dropped below 90 percent. 

The campaign seems to be having an impact because House Health Care chairman Michael Fisher announced on the House floor that he doesn’t have the votes to pass the compromise and that he needs more time before bringing the issue to the floor for a vote.

"I am not prepared at this time to have the debate and ask support from the House for one legislative day," Fisher said.

Rutland senator Kevin Mullin is the lead sponsor of the bill that eliminates the philosophical exemption. He told his colleagues that he’s tired of being pushed around by the House.

"If we’re going to allow ourselves to be bullied by the House and go through a committee of conference where their side puts forward a proposal we agree to it they sign it and then they won’t even take up a vote then we might as well go home because this body doesn’t need to be here — we can let the House make all the decisions," Mullin said.

It’s not clear how the issue is going to unfold. It’s possible that a new compromise will be drafted that eliminates the 90 percent threshold but still requires schools to report their individual immunization rates.



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