Assembly Health Committee Blocks Anti-Bioterrorism Bill, Establishes Commission to Study Issue
The Assembly Health Committee yesterday "gutted" a bill (AB 1763) that would have allowed "forcible quarantining" of state residents and seizure of hospitals or pharmacies by the state in the event of a bioterrorist attack, the Sacramento Bee reports. The legislation, sponsored by Assembly member Keith Richman (R-Sun Valley), also would have allowed mandatory vaccinations of state residents and the destruction of "contaminated property" without the owner's consent. Richman based the bill on model legislation released by the CDC last October. The Bee reports that the committee decided to establish a commission to study the issue in response to concerns raised by civil liberties and business groups. Valerie Small, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, said that the group had concerns about "how the measure would be enforced." Committee Chair Helen Thomson (D-Davis) said that the legislation includes "sweeping proposals" that require "input from the many 'stakeholders' who would have been affected." Thomson added, "[I]t's my belief -- and (that of) a number of people on this committee -- that the best way to achieve the goal is through the commission." Richman, the only physician in the Assembly, expressed "disappointment" over the committee's decision and said that "California is not prepared for a bioterrorism attack." He said, "There's no certainty that in two or three or five years, the attention being paid to public health preparedness will be the same" (Rojas, Sacramento Bee, 4/17).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.