This past legislative session, a first-in-the-nation measure regarding people’s health was introduced in the State House of Representatives.
No, it didn’t have anything to do with abortion. Or being trans-gendered. And it had nothing to do with people’s reproductive health. But ultimately, it may prove far more controversial, and may have more effect on our state’s elections this year than anything else that was discussed over the course of the past few months.
If passed, House Bill 1235 would have been the first bill of its kind in the country to remove immunization requirements for school children and others. While states have personal, religious and medical exemptions, all 50 states require vaccination to go to public schools.
This bill would not just have removed the vaccination requirement, it would have actually made having a requirement a crime. House Bill 1235 outrageously included language that would make it a class one misdemeanor for any educational institution, medical provider or person to compel someone to receive immunizations.
Testimony in favor of the measure included proponent testimony such as this:
For the sponsor of the bill Rep. Lee Qualm (R-Platte), the president of South Dakotans for Informed Consent Mya Olson and other proponents of the bill, this bill is about medical freedom.
“Give us back our freedom,” Olson said. “It’s a God-given right. Our constitution is supposed to protect it.
Qualm said he is worried about consent that parents receive and his assertion of a link between autism and vaccinations, although it’s unclear where that research has come from.
It’s scary that a legislator actually used the completely and utterly debunked autism-vaccination claim, but, you get the point.
Lead sponsor State Representative Lee Qualm also brought a number of other legislators along for the ride on this bill, including fellow House sponsors Brunner, Goodwin, Lana Greenfield, Hammock, Latterell, Sue Peterson, Pischke, Randolph, Saba, Steele, and Weis and Senators Brock Greenfield and Phil Jensen.
The bill was heard in House Health and Human Services, where it was deferred to the 41st legislative day. The only votes dissenting from killing the measure were those of Representative Tamara St. John, and Representative Julie Frye Mueller.
That was on the 25th of February.
So, what’s taken place since then? Nothing much other than the coronavirus pandemic causing the largest global recession in history, with more than a third of the global population being in lockdown and sheltering in place.
While it was an obnoxious measure before the pandemic, taking coronavirus into account has made House Bill 1235 even more outrageous, and places a very large target on those legislator’s backs.
In fact, many of them find themselves in primary elections, and trying to make required vaccination a crime for school children and healthcare workers could be a major issue. How do the primary challenges break down for House Bill 1235 sponsors?
*Tom Brunner running for District 29 House finds himself running in a primary against former House Speaker Dean Wink who is returning to run, Rep. Kirk Chaffee, and Lincoln Shuck. This could be challenging for Brunner.
*Controversial Senator Phil Jensen is trying to move over to District 33 House where he will be running against Melanie Torno and Taffy Howard. Jensen might have name ID, but it’s not as if he’s not already controversial without adding anti-vaxxer to his resume.
*Tim Goodwin in District 30 House is in a 4-way primary for one of the two house seats against Keystone Mayor Kwinn Neff, and Trish Ladner of Hot Springs. Did I say 4? Sorry, Florence Thompson is running as well. She out there far enough that she scares people.
*Dayle Hammock of District 31 House may find himself fighting for his political life in a 5-way primary against Scott Odenbach, Mary Fitzgerald, Brandon Flanagan, and Julie Olson. In addition to sponsoring the anti-vaccination measure, Hammock is said to have some issues with gaming as well. Not necessarily a good position for someone representing Deadwood.
*House member Isaac Latterell finds himself running against Herman Otten in a competitive District 6 Senate Primary. Coming out against vaccination of school children is not something that works in his favor.
*Julie Frye-Mueller, who jumped into the D30 Senate race when Lance Russell dropped out, is in a contest against Hot Springs Mayor George Kotti. Frye-Mueller has name ID, but so does Kotti, and he doesn’t have the distinction of being one of two votes to end the vaccination of school children.
*House Bill 1235’s prime sponsor Representative Lee Qualm might find himself in one of the biggest quandaries of all. In what was a safe Senate seat when held by Senator Rocky Blare, Blare and Qualm made a political swap of offices to allow Qualm to continue in the legislature on an uninterrupted basis.
But, not so fast.. That swap is looking less and less automatic, as Qualm finds himself facing Republican Erin Tobin of Winner for the seat he talked a Senator out of.
Tobin, a Certified Nurse Practitioner, has launched her campaign aggressively and is finding early support while she’s on the front-lines of treating patients at a time when medical professionals are in a heightened position of trust and appreciation.
With these legislators’ actions to make required vaccination a crime under House Bill 1235, we could see a number of these legislators called on the carpet moreso than if we were not all sheltering in place.
Stay tuned. And stay healthy.