Several bills have been introduced aimed at increasing COVID-19 vaccination rates. These efforts are being led by a legislative Vaccine Work Group, which has identified the need to increase vaccination rates amongst students and school staff as necessary to keeping schools open and maintaining in-person learning. As vaccination rates for children under 18 continue to lag far behind those of adults, policy makers are shifting focus to this demographic. In this vein, the Governor’s California SMARTER Plan, which lays out the next phase of the state’s COVID-19 response, includes the expansion of school-based vaccination sites and a vaccine educational campaign aimed at parents as two of its goals. These and other related efforts are certain to ramp up as soon as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) grants full approval of the COVID-19 vaccine for children below age 16.
· AB 1993 (Wicks) – would require all public and private employers, including local educational agencies (LEA), to require their employees and independent contractors to provide proof of being vaccinated against COVID-19.
· SB 871 (Pan) – would add the COVID-19 vaccine to the list of immunizations required for children to attend child care or school without a personal belief exemption and moving forward, would allow the California Department of Public Health to add additional vaccination requirements without the exemption.
· SB 866 (Wiener) - would allow minors 12 years of age and older to consent to receiving a vaccine that is approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration and meets the recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention without parent or guardian consent.
Maintaining a robust testing capacity is a pillar of the state’s endemic strategy and schools will be looked at to continue to have a role. As with anything, the devil will be in the details. Some of this is certain to play out as SB 1479 (Pan) is debated. Will schools be encouraged or required to administer and distribute tests? What level of resources and state support will be directed to LEAs to support testing? One thing is clear, requiring LEAs to develop yet another plan will not be well received by school officials.
· SB 1479 (Pan) – would require LEAs to develop a “COVID-19 testing plan” for the purposes of testing teachers, staff, and students.
Over the past couple of years, the occurrence of unruly behavior at school board and other public meetings has increased significantly. This led to the California School Boards Association (CSBA) and others calling on policy makers and the Governor to protect local leaders and allow public business to be conducted. Senator Cortese (D-San Jose) has introduced legislation to empower legislative bodies, including LEAs, to remove individuals who willfully interrupt their meetings. The Legislature and Governor are expected to be largely sympathetic to the issue. Ensuring the final proposal holds legal muster and does not impede first amendment rights will be much of the legislative focus. Multiple bills have also been introduced to extend and expand flexibility around remote participation in public meetings. There is broad recognition that remote participation in these meetings continues to be necessary.
· SB 1100 (Cortese) - would allow members of a legislative body, including school boards, to remove individuals from a public meeting who “willfully interrupt” and prevent the orderly conduct of the meeting.
· AB 2449 (Rubio) – would authorize local agencies to use teleconferencing without having to disclose and make accessible every remote location, if at least a quorum of the members of the legislative body participates in person from a singular location that is publicly noticed and accessible to the public.
· AB 1944 (Lee & C. Garcia) – would allow local agencies to use teleconferencing without having to disclose private locations, so long as a video stream and an option to participate remotely are made available to the public.
We will keep you updated as these bills move through the Legislature. Do not hesitate to reach out if I or anyone from the team can be of any assistance on these bills or any others.
Legislative Advocate | Capitol Advisors Group