For many of us in the American River Democrats, 2010 was a special time. After 5th District Assemblyman Roger Niello left office due to term limits, Dr. Richard Pan won his first state elective office, and for 2 years, represented many of the club’s members – our first Democrat in years!
Then the boundaries were changed in re-districting, and we lost him to the 6th District, and he went on to win a seat in the state senate. And even though few – if any – of our club members are in his current senate district, he was still happy to reach out to the club, and spoke at our September meeting.
Of course, if you follow California politics, you are aware that Dr. Pan was one of the leading voices and proponents of Senate Bill 277, which insured much higher vaccination rates for children in public schools, eliminating the “personal belief” exemption some parents had been using to not vaccinate their children.
Senator/Doctor Pan pointed out, as he spoke to the club, that this measure was aimed at protecting the community rather than the individual children who may now get their vaccinations. A certain population of children for medical reasons cannot get vaccinated, or need to delay the process, and they are at greater risk of getting some of the debilitating diseases from a larger population of other non-vaccinated kids. The greater the number, the more chance that a single exposed child will spread the disease to the others, as was seen at Disneyland earlier this year when 147 people contracted measles.
The most notable vaccination opponents have the belief that vaccines cause autism, because their children have shown the first signs of autism soon after a vaccination. They even cite a study from England that supposedly proved a connection. But as Dr. Pan, and many others have pointed out, that study has been completely de-bunked, and there is no credible evidence to support any connection.
Pan reminded us that ten California babies died in 2010 from pertussis, or whooping cough, as a result of their exposure to the disease that many thought had been totally wiped out. But over 9,000 people contracted it then, and infants too young to be vaccinated were victims of exposure to people who were old enough, but did not.
But now that SB277 is law, the opponents march on! One effort, led by former Republican Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, sought to place a referendum on the ballot to overturn SB277. They needed over 365,000 signatures to qualify, but fell over 100,000 short, so it will not be on the ballot this time. It can happen again, and the danger, Pan pointed out, is that voters in favor of vaccinations would need to vote “No” on the ballot, so even if most Californians want kids vaccinated, they would still need to be educated on how to vote, so time and money would have to be spent just to keep the status quo.
The other effort opponents are making seems more like a revenge move against the most vocal and notable proponent of the measure, Senator Pan. There is an active recall effort to remove him from office. Of course, there was no mystery about where he stood on the issue when the voters chose him, but a recall is always dangerous for an incumbent. An expensive special election may only draw the most “passionate” voters, and many supporters of Pan may not bother to vote, while the anti-vaxxers would certainly come out in droves.
One way to show your support for Senator Pan is to go to KeepDrPan.com and show your support, even if you are not in his Senate district.
Richard Pan answers questions from the American River Democrats.
While at the American River Democrats’ meeting Senator Pan also answered questions from the club. He was asked why he was not supporting the bill to ban microbeads in California, which was recently signed into law by Governor Brown. (Microbeads are the tiny plastic grains in some exfoliating hygiene products that find their way into the environment, fish and wildlife.) Pan said that while he did support eliminating them, he hoped a better bill could be developed that more correctly targeted non-biodegradable varieties, and allowed improved alternatives to be brought to market.
He also talked about legislation he has proposed to increase the tax on tobacco, both in order to raise the price and decrease demand, especially from young people, and to fund medical care and disease prevention. He pointed out that $18 billion is spend each year in the state on tobacco related illness. The tax would go part of the way towards making up that cost. When you ask smoking parents if they want their kids to smoke, almost all of them say no. They know how hard it is to quit – they all have their own addiction stories.
While Pan is proud of how much he and the Democrats in the state legislature have accomplished, he is also very aware that passing bills is fine, but it is equally important to follow up to make sure they are implemented. Some programs, especially related to health care, are great on paper, but come up against roadblocks when it comes time to help the people who need it most. That is where active monitoring by the bill’s sponsors is so important. “Passing a law only works if it helps people on the ground” Pan said.