The Idaho Senate Health and Welfare Committee voted 5-4 to introduce a bill that would allow parents to exempt children in daycare or school from state immunization requirements with a signed letter, rather than by filling out a state form.
If passed, the bill would add that the exemption does not have to come from “the state board of health and welfare, a daycare or another entity,” and would allow parents to opt out without filling out a form from the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, which is provided to schools.
“We would lose, in some schools — without the standardized form — the ability to understand that the parents know that in the case of an outbreak that their child needs to be excluded,” Rep. Maryanne Jordan, the minority caucus chair from Boise, told the committee.
Sen. Dan Foreman, R-Moscow, who proposed the bill Jan. 25 in hopes of adding clarity to existing Idaho law that allows for vaccine exemptions, said the form allows for an exemption without explanation.
“This bill does not change the meaning or intent of existing Idaho code. It simply clarifies what existing law already expresses,” Foreman said.
Co-chair Lee Heider explained that some schools have said they don’t allow for the exemptions, and said the committee can’t control for such instances.
“What we can control is what the department does to keep children who haven’t been immunized from either exposing others and exposing themselves. And the form we have currently does just that,” the Twin Falls Republican said.
Foreman and other senators worried forcing parents to sign forms might be a difficult experience. with Foreman saying, “If I don’t want to fill out the bloody form, I won’t fill out the bloody form.”
“There’s those who don’t want to fill out a form…” said Sen. Antony Potts, R-Idaho Falls. “But unfortunately, because of the way the statute is written, schools have taken upon themselves to think they can require certain things and demand certain things and make a process more difficult. And even more harassing for parents, and I don’t use that word lightly.”
Senators Fred Martin, Mark Harris, Jordan and Heider dissented.
The bill will be considered in a public hearing prior to a committee vote.
Kyle Pfannenstiel covers the 2018 Idaho Legislature for the University of Idaho McClure Center for Public Policy Research.