Today was deadline day. Since I arrived at the Capitol this morning, I've been going non-stop. While it may consist of just sitting in meetings and asking questions or giving comments, it is nonetheless mentally and emotionally taxing.
Today, the Mississippi Taxpayer Transparency Act passed the Appropriations Committee. This would create a website that would put all state contracts, subcontracts, and grants online, as well as provide information on bond projects and revenues. The Dept. of Finance and Administration would oversee the sight. Over course, their objection is to the work and how much it will cost. Two states most recently (Missouri and Kansas) have done it for no additional cost and using existing staff. This is a big deal. Taxpayers could have instant access to these documents. Transparency allows us to the have conversation about government efficiency and spending. I'm pleased that most of my freshman class has also sponsored the bill.
However, I also suffered a setback today. HB 1365, which is an identical bill of my HB 774, would grant exemptions to school-mandated vaccinations for children who have a certificate from a doctor that states such vaccination would be injurious to the well-being of the child.
HB 1365 was stripped down to an appeal process for children with autism to try and get exempt from school-mandated vaccinations. The new stripped-down version of HB 1365 passed the Public Health Committee 15-5, but then failed in the Education Committee 11-10. I can't even begin to state the outpouring of emails, phone calls and letters of stories of parents whose child has been injured by a vaccination. Mississippi is one of two states who do not allow for a religious exemption. 48 states allow this. 20 allow for a philosophical exemption. And there are children who have suddenly been injured after receiving a vaccination, or have been diagnosed with autism shortly after vaccination, whereas before they were perfectly normal. I don't know the specifics of the science. No one does. But there is no doubt there is a correlation for some children. Obviously, the State Medical Association, Dr. Ed Thompson and other pharmaceutical companies vehemently oppose my position- and that's fine. I represent parents in my district whose children have been injured, and honestly, I believe they are right. I think we will be proved correct in the future.
The whole argument that opening the door for these few hundred children with autism could result in some sort of outbreak is ridiculous. Tell that to the other 48 states with exemptions for religious beliefs. I haven't heard of any new outbreaks of measles or diphtheria. And Mississippi cannot get a doctor-approved exemption for children with autism. The other argument was that Mississippi is leading the nation in terms of immunizations. Well, guess what- we also lead the nation in child mortality. So our wonderful immunization success rate isn't curing the real issue after all.
In the end, I was grateful to have bipartisan support in the Education Committee, especially from Reps. Sherra Hillman Lane, Bob Evans and Brandon Jones.