Last night was a bad night for vaccine rights in New York. Our bill, Senate Bill S6141d, that would take away school districts' authority to deny religious exemptions from vaccine mandates, lost so many supporters in the Senate that there is no longer a clear way forward.
Our sponsor (the author of the bill) State Senator Martin Golden, lost his election in his Brooklyn District. Two other co-sponsors lost their seats, Sen. Elaine Phillips and Sen. Terrence Murphy. Sen. Carl Marcellino, who shepherded the bill successfully through the Senate Education Committee of which he was Chair, lost his election as well. Assemblymember Dean Murray, who co-sponsored the bill in the Assembly, lost his bid for a Senate seat. In the spring four of our Democratic party co-sponsors lost their seats in primary challenges. That left us with only one Democratic co-sponsor, Sen. Luis Sepulveda. In short, our support for the bill was decimated.
The new Democratic majority in the New York Senate have bills to take away religious exemptions altogether just like California (S52-Hoylman/A1810-Dinowitz). They have bills to require HPV vaccines to attend school (S132-Hoylman/A933-Paulin), mandatory flu shots for all pre-schoolers in the state (S6436-Hoylman/A1230-Dinowitz), and a bill to allow children to get shots for sexually-transmitted diseases without parental knowledge or consent (S5611-Krueger/A2649-Paulin). These bills made no progress in the Republican-controlled Senate, but all could begin moving now that the Democrats are in the majority. That is not to say that there are strict partisan divides on these issues, we have supporters and opponents on both sides of the aisle, and our opponent on one issue could be our champion on another. But we are in a new and unknown situation.
Our main concern now is not to advance vaccine rights in New York but to protect the rights we already have. Educating and engaging the newly-elected Senators and the new Democratic majority in the State Senate will be a top priority.
We believe that the only way to achieve this and other policy goals of the Autism Action Network is to organize groups of informed and engaged people in all 150 Assembly districts in the state to work as constituent-lobbyists directly with the elected officials that represent them. It is the only way we can see to counter the massive advantage of our opponents in money and media access.
We will be hosting community meetings throughout the state to organize these teams. If you know of a place where we can have a public meeting in your area preferable for free or at low cost please contact John Gilmore at email@example.com
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