Vaccine exemption bill among hundreds of laws taking effect
OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Under a new law that takes effect Sunday, parents in Washington state will no longer be able to cite philosophical or personal beliefs to exempt their children from the combined measles, mumps and rubella vaccine that’s required for attendance at private and public schools and day care centers.
More than 80 cases of measles have been reported in the state this year, with the 10 most recent cases reported in King County between May and mid-July. A previous outbreak was centered in southwestern Washington, where a majority of the cases involved children age 10 and younger.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 1,100 cases of measles have been confirmed in 30 states this year, with the majority of the cases reported in New York.
Washington was one of three states that passed legislation this year in response to measles outbreaks. Maine removed personal and religious belief exemptions for public school immunization requirements earlier this year, and New York removed religious exemptions last month.
California removed non-medical vaccine exemptions for children in both public and private schools in 2015, after a measles outbreak at Disneyland sickened 147 people and spread across the U.S. and into Canada. Vermont abandoned its personal exemption that same year. Other than California, Mississippi and West Virginia are the only other states that don’t allow either a religious or philosophical exemption.
Washington is now among just 15 states that allow some type of non-medical vaccine exemption for personal or philosophical beliefs. In addition, medical and religious exemptions exist for attendance at the state’s public or private schools or licensed day-care centers and those two exemptions for the combined MMR vaccine remain in place under the measure passed by the Washington Legislature earlier this year. The new law also requires staff and volunteers of licensed child care centers to be immunized against measles.
Unless an exemption is claimed, children are required to be vaccinated against or show proof of acquired immunity for nearly a dozen diseases — including polio, whooping cough and measles — before they can attend school or go to child care centers.
The state Department of Health said that statewide, 4% of Washington K-12 students have non-medical vaccine exemptions. Of those, 3.7% of the exemptions are personal, and the rest are religious.
The vaccine exemption bill was one of nearly 500 bills passed during the 105-day legislative session that concluded at the end of April. While dozens of the measures have varying effective dates, more than 400 of those bills take effect Sunday. Here’s a look at just a few:
OIL TRAIN RESTRICTIONS: New restrictions on oil trains from the Northern Plains to guard against explosive derailments have already drawn a challenge, with attorneys general for North Dakota and Montana asking the Trump administration to overrule the new law. The law requires oil shipped by rail through the state to have more volatile gases removed to reduce the risk of explosive and potentially deadly derailments.
SEXUAL ASSAULT-STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS: The statute of limitation for a group of the most serious sex crimes against children, including first through third-degree rape, is removed for victims who were under 16 at the time of the crime. Limits of time to report rape involving older victims would be extended to as much as twenty years, depending on the charge. The new law also alters consent rules by removing active resistance from the definition of third-degree rape. The definition of the crime is modified to mean sex without consent — given by words or action — from the victim.
MARIJUANA CONVICTIONS: People with previous misdemeanor marijuana possession convictions face a lower burden to have those convictions vacated. Previously, a sentencing court had the discretion to vacate an applicant’s misdemeanor conviction record, except in several circumstances, including where criminal charges are pending against the person, fewer than three years have passed since they completed their sentence, or if they’ve been convicted of a new crime since the date of conviction. Under the new law, the court will be required to vacate any applicant’s conviction record provided they were 21 or older when the prior misdemeanor marijuana conviction occurred.
TENANT PROTECTIONS: Lawmakers approved a package of tenant protections that extend eviction notices from three days to 14, ban eviction for nonpayment of fees, and require payments go to rent before fees. The new law also gives new power to judges, allowing them to temporarily block evictions based on factors including a tenants’ good-faith effort to pay. Another measure taking effect this weekend requires landlords to provide renters a minimum of 60 days’ notice of an increase in rent. For people in subsidized housing where rent is based on income or other circumstances, landlords must provide a minimum of 30 days’ notice of an increase in rent.
WRONGFUL DEATH: The state’s wrongful death laws are updated to remove requirements that family members must live in the United States and be economically dependent on the victim to be able to file a wrongful death claim here. The change, sparked by a fatal 2015 crash of an amphibious “Ride the Ducks” tour vehicle, now includes parents of adult children more broadly. The new law means parents only need to prove emotional loss instead of financial dependency.
LEGISLATIVE HARASSMENT: Harassment or sexual harassment by lawmakers will now be considered a violation of the state’s Ethics in Public Service Act, which prohibits state employees and officers from using their positions for personal gain, and prohibits things like receiving gifts or outside compensation for official duties, or using one’s position to get special privileges. The measure passed the Legislature following a year in which four state lawmakers either lost an election or resigned amid sexual misconduct allegations.
NATIVE AMERICAN VOTING: A new law expanding voting services on tribal reservations requires county officials to establish at least one voting drop box on any tribal reservation if requested by the tribe. The new law also allows tribal members to use tribal identification cards to register to vote, and to register using non-traditional addresses, including a narrative description of the location of their residence or a tribal government building designated for ballot collection as their mailing address. Non-traditional addresses were already permitted under state law in certain circumstances; the new law broadly adds voters who live on tribal lands to the list.
EXOTIC DANCER SAFETY: Strip clubs and similar establishments will be required to offer safety and rights training for adult entertainers, panic buttons, and for venues to keep and enforce ban lists for violent or threatening patrons. Educational requirements laid out under the new law include workplace rights and harassment reporting, risks of human trafficking, and financial literacy information. Panic buttons are set to be required in rooms where customers could be alone with dancers and in bathrooms, and establishments will also be required to keep a list of patrons that have acted violently toward dancers, share it among co-owned establishments, and ban customers on it for a minimum of three years.
MEDICAL MARIJUANA-SCHOOLS: Parents and guardians will be allowed to administer marijuana-infused products to a student on school grounds for medical purposes as long as the student is a qualified medical marijuana patient and the student doesn’t smoke or inhale the product.
SALARY HISTORY: Employers will be barred from requesting a job applicant’s wage or salary history, except under certain circumstances. Employers will also not be allowed to request wage or salary history from a previous employer before offering an applicant a job and negotiating salary.