The legislature’s Conservative Caucus today blasted the leadership of the Public Health Committee for cutting Connecticut residents off after twenty-four hours and ending public discussion regarding proposed legislation that would end the state’s religious exemption from immunization, and potentially expel thousands of healthy children from public schools across the state.
Nearly 2,000 people signed up to testify on two measures – SB 568 – An Act Eliminating the Nonmedical Exemption to the Immunization Requirement – that will “eliminate the nonmedical exemption to the immunization requirement for individuals attending public or private school from prekindergarten through grade twelve, individuals in higher education and children in day care settings,” and HB 6423 – An Act Concerning Immunizations.
At 9:00 a.m. Wednesday morning Committee leadership stopped calling from the list of people signed up to testify, ending discussion a little less than 24 hours after the hearing began, and having heard from less than 240 speakers. At the commencement of the hearing, more than 1,930 people were registered to testify, and more than 3,500 pieces of testimony had been submitted to the Committee. The sheer volume of testimony overwhelmed committee staff and less than one third is currently available online, and it continues to be uploaded.
“Using the pandemic as cover to restrict and silence people from addressing their government, especially with an emotionally charged issue at hand, is in direct contravention to the very principles our state and country were founded upon,” Rep. Fishbein, Vice Chair of the Conservative Caucus said. “Open, direct debate and discussion is the right of every citizen.”
“The concerns of each and every single person who tried to testify are real and deserve to be heard before legislation is passed that will affect these families so deeply,” Rep. Dauphinais said. “It is unconscionable to dismiss 1,700 voices from such an important discussion, and it goes against the nature of open and transparent government.”
During the course of the hearing, many residents testified that if these changes are implemented it would upend their families, with some preparing to quit jobs to homeschool their children, and others saying they will be forced to leave the state. Dozens of school-aged children also testified, asking the committee to oppose these proposals and allow them to remain in school.
The Department of Public Health says more than 8,000 children currently qualify for an exemption, although fewer exercise the option.
The CGA Conservative Caucus is a group of 15 Connecticut legislators dedicated to the principles of limited government, economic freedom, and individual liberty. Its members foster open debate about the role of government in society, adherence to the Constitution, and the rule of law. They propose and advocate for legislation that promotes the freedoms, individual rights, and prosperity of all Americans.
The members of the Connecticut General Assembly Conservative Caucus are: Rep. Mike France, Chair (R 42); Rep. Craig Fishbein, Vice Chair (R-90); Rep. Anne Dauphinais, Secretary (R-44); Rep. David T. Wilson, Treasurer (R-66); Rep. Tim Ackert (R-8); Rep. Brian Lanoue (R-45); Rep. Doug Dubitsky (R-47); Rep. Rick Hayes (R 51); Rep. Kurt Vail (R-52); Rep. Mark Anderson (R-62); Rep. Joe Polletta (R-68); Rep. John Piscopo (R-76); Rep. Gale Mastrofrancesco (R-80); Rep. John Fusco (R 81); and Rep. Kimberly Fiorello (R-149).