Urgent action is needed! Tell Governor Polis to veto SB-163.

UPDATE – June 27, 2020

On June 26, Governor Polis signed SB-163.

As of Monday, June 22, approximately 4,300 SHF advocates have emailed Governor Polis to voice their opposition to SB-163. The governor needs to hear from more constituents to show mass opposition to this measure! Please share this campaign widely. Once we have 10,000 letters, we will contact Governor Polis and ask him how he plans to respond to the thousands of voters who have asked him to protect Colorado school children by vetoing SB-163.

Also, please see our note below about the homeschool amendment. Upon examination of the final version of SB-163, we discovered that the only students who are exempt from the bill are those who do not use publicly funded programs.

OUR STAND

  • On Saturday, June 13, the Colorado Senate passed SB-163, a bill that values state-mandated healthcare decisions over what a parent determines is best for their child. The bill has now been passed by both houses and is awaiting signature from Governor Polis. If the governor does not veto the bill, it will go into effect immediately after passage. Passage occurs upon signing or 30 days from the date the governor receives it. (Note: An amendment was added to the bill that excludes some homeschoolers; specifically, those who do not utilize any publicly funded programs.) 
  • Sponsored by Rep. Kyle Mullica (D-34), Sen. Julie Gonzalez (D-34), Sen. Kevin Priola (D-25) and Rep. Dylan Roberts (D-26), SB-163 is a discriminatory and unnecessary bill that violates citizens’ constitutional rights and privacy rights.
  • SB-163 takes the personal belief exemption and religious exemption presently afforded to Colorado students under law and puts them into a single category, non-medical. Legislative analysts and opponents of the bill believe this move will make it easy for lawmakers to later target the non-medical exemption for removal.
  • SB-163 perpetuates systemic injustice by creating a new minority class that is marginalized for their religious and philosophical beliefs and then discriminated against because of those beliefs. It forces families who decline or delay one or more state-recommended vaccinations to be subjected to a state-mandated reeducation program. The only other option is to get their sincerely held beliefs validated by a medical provider. However, there is no guarantee that any medical provider will sign off on those beliefs, and so it’s not an assured mechanism of relief.
  • The bill also forces students who deviate from any state-recommended vaccinations into a state tracking system that lacks informed consent and has no privacy protections. Students’ sensitive medical information will not be protected under HIPAA or FERPA.
  • SB-163 requires Colorado to explicitly follow the vaccination recommendations of the Colorado Department of Public Health. This one-size-fits-all approach is dangerous and lays the groundwork for unlimited vaccines to be administered to all Colorado children, including the controversial HPV vaccine, yearly flu vaccines and the experimental, fast-tracked and liability-free COVID-19 vaccine (if and when it becomes available).
  • All in all, SB-163 is unwarranted legislation that fosters discrimination, wastes taxpayer dollars and endangers Colorado families. Advocates must rise up NOW to stop this egregious bill. Please email, call and tweet Governor Polis immediately and ask him to veto SB-163! And then please share this campaign with your friends, family and neighbors.

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CALL TO ACTION

Despite massive opposition from thousands who protested at the State Capitol and flooded lawmakers with emails, SB-163 was passed by the Colorado General Assembly on Saturday, June 13. The bill was aggressively pushed through the legislature, which even held a Sunday session to advance the legislation in the face of a pandemic and extreme civil unrest.

The bill’s sponsors claim that SB-163 is needed to improve public health. However, the state’s vaccination rates have not led to any infectious illness outbreaks warranting such legislation.

Moreover, last June Governor Polis signed an executive order aimed at increasing Colorado’s Kindergarten immunization coverage rates. He outlined numerous directives, and the results of those efforts have not been made publicly available. Therefore, we don’t know if the targets or initiatives he established via the executive order have been successful. That makes this bill premature and even more unnecessary.

All in all, SB-163 erodes health freedom in Colorado and violates families’ civil and constitutional protections. Specifically, it:

  • Discriminates against individuals by forcing them into a state-mandated program that tries to reeducate them on their sincerely held religious or philosophical beliefs. Individuals could instead try to get their sincerely held beliefs validated by a medical provider; however, there is no guarantee that any provider will sign off on those beliefs, so it’s not an assured mechanism of relief.
  • Violates families’ privacy by forcing all students who delay or decline any required vaccine into the state vaccine tracking system (CIIS), which lacks informed consent and any privacy protections. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA45 CFR 164.512(b)(1)(i)is a federal law that allows disclosure of private and protected health information without knowledge or consent for conducting public health surveillance, investigations or interventions. This includes information in state vaccine registries and tracking systems, including CIIS, that can be used to identify individuals and/or groups of people who are not vaccinated with all doses of all the federally recommended vaccines so interventions can be applied. Approved interventions include home visits. The only privacy protection currently afforded is FERPA (The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act), and that will be lost if SB-163 is enacted.
  • Deceives legislators and the public by spinning the state’s vaccination and exemption rates to create the illusion of a crisis. SB-163 supporters have repeatedly stated that Colorado has some of the lowest vaccination rates in the country, and this misrepresentation is often cited by the media. The rates that have been quoted are for kindergarten students only and do not reflect all students. If officials instead used the statewide rates posted by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), the MMR rates cited are 94.32%, which a is much higher figure than those commonly quoted. Moreover, the state’s vaccination rates are likely even higher. Many schools are not proactively collecting missing records, so the data they have is incomplete and inaccurate.
  • CDPHE and public health officials have a long history of spinning data, most recently with the way that they calculatedCOVID-19 deaths. It’s incumbent on the Colorado legislature to demand transparency and accurate data before they decide to enact laws and public health policies.
  • Wastes taxpayer dollars on unnecessary legislation when the state is facing a severe budget shortfall. The legislature should not be passing unnecessary laws that create additional costs when cuts are needed.
  • Creates additional burdens and costs not reflected in the fiscal note for schools by requiring every school to provide yearly comparative vaccination and exemption rates for MMR vaccines, with the ability to report on all vaccine rates. This information is already available on the CDPHEwebsite and has been available since HB 14-1288 was passed.
  • Requires schools to “engage” with students and families in order to achieve a stated 95% vaccination rate goal for all vaccines required for school. Schools are already bogged down with numerous administrative requirements; the state legislature should not be placing additional costly burdens on them. The current fiscal notefor SB-163 does not take any costs it imposes on schools into consideration.
  • Puts Colorado’s educational system in further jeopardy. As it stands, the state will likely lose students due to uncertainties around COVID-19. Because SB-163 applies to students of all ages, adults who do not want to fulfill the state’s vaccination requirements may choose to opt out of Colorado’s higher education system, which has been facing an enrollment crisis and is already in dire financial straits.
  • Tell Governor Polis that SB-163 is harmful to Coloradans and must be stopped. Please email, call and tweet him NOW and ask him to veto SB-163 immediately!

*Stand for Health Freedom would like to thank the National Vaccine Information Center for its analysis of SB-163 and the data cited in this campaign.

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