A controversial state bill, which would require parents to submit a state form to exempt their children from vaccinations, might not have time to get through the Senate, as the legislative session had only about 108 hours left as of midday Monday.
The bill, as approved by the House on Saturday, is intended to discourage Coloradans from opting their children out of inoculations. It still allows children to be opted out for medical, religious or personal reasons, for those who believe government shouldn’t have any say in parents’ decisions involving their children.
Gov. Jared Polis has voiced concerns about the bill, chiefly because parents would have to visit a local health department or the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to get the form to exempt their children.
Senate Minority Leader Chris Holbert of Parker said he suggested the Senate Democratic leadership postpone the bill in its first committee hearing to ward off potentially hundreds of opponents showing up to testify on it.
The Senate, which on Monday still had 128 bills pending action, doesn’t have 20 hours or more to spend on one bill in a hearing, plus floor debate, Holbert said.
That’s what happened April 15, when a hearing by the House Health & Insurance Committee drew about 575 people, most with the anti-vaccine Colorado Health Choice Alliance, for 14 hours of testimony. The group reportedly hopes even more people show up for the Senate committee hearing.
That’s time the Senate doesn’t have. Its 128 remaining bills would get about 15 minutes each, said Sen. Jeff Bridges, D-Greenwood Village.
But the bill’s Senate sponsor, Kevin Priola, R-Henderson, said he hadn’t heard that argument.
Said Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg of Boulder: “We don’t make decisions based on threats.”
Only four of 10 committees — State, Veterans and Military Affairs; Judiciary; Finance; and Appropriations — still are scheduled to meet this week. “If there’s a bill coming over from the House, it’ll get its due time,” Fenberg said.
Would the Senate spend 20 hours on one bill? “If that’s what it takes,” he said.
The Senate received the bill Saturday and must introduce it in the next chamber within three business days.
When the Senate convened Monday, Republicans began making their point about time, debating for 20 minutes a bill reauthorizing professional review committees within the Department of Regulatory Agencies. Seven Republicans spoke on the bill, every one in favor of it. Then Fenberg asked that it be laid over until later that morning.
The Senate spent 45 minutes on its first two bills Monday; the House passed six bills in that time.