Vaccine Bill Sponsor Pulls Out Amid Flap Over Stock Investment
Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore Sally Lieber (D-San Jose) on Thursday announced that she will rescind her authorship of a bill (AB 16) that would require all California girls entering the sixth grade to be immunized against human papillomavirus, the San Jose Mercury News reports. HPV has been linked to cervical cancer.
Assembly member Ed Hernandez (D-Baldwin Park) will carry the legislation.
Lieber said she made her decision to withdraw because of a possible conflict of interest with her husband's ownership of stock in Merck, which makes an HPV vaccine.
For the past four years, Lieber has listed the stock on her financial disclosure forms, yet she did not foresee a possible conflict until after the bill was introduced.
Lieber said she was not in contact with Merck before writing her measure and has declined a request to meet with the company after the bill was introduced. "This is about cervical cancer, not about vendors," she said.
Although her attorneys indicated that the stock holdings would not disqualify her, Lieber said, "I don't know if it's a conflict, but I think it gives the appearance of a conflict, which I think is problematic because it deteriorates the faith people have in government." She added, "I should've done more homework before introducing [the bill]. That was bad; it was wrong" (Zapler, San Jose Mercury News, 2/2).