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Confusion reigns over implementation of SB 276 and SB 714. Is Gov. Newsom to blame?

Last year, California passed SB 276 and SB 714 to crack down on bogus medical exemptions to school vaccine mandates by quacks. Now, confusion reigns over implementation and Gov. Newsom’s wife is playing footsie with antivaxxers.

This is the story of how California tried to protect its children against infectious disease, but more importantly it’s a cautionary tail about how politics can lead to massive confusion. Before we get to the confusion, I’ll start with some background that makes me think that Gavin Newsom and his wife California First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom are helping to feed it. Specifically, Ms. Newsom has been playing footsie with antivaccine protesters, and one of them posted video that’s come back to haunt her, as it shows her signaling sympathy with their cause and promising to help in whatever way she can.

But first, some background.

Once upon a time…oh, five years ago…there was a measles outbreak at the Happiest Place on the Earth, a.k.a. Disneyland. It made the international news, and when it finally burned itself out there had been cases of measles in seven US states, Canada, and Mexico, for a total of 147 cases, likely sparked by a visitor from overseas. The measles virus type in this outbreak (B3) was identical to the virus type that caused a large measles outbreak in the Philippines in 2014 but had also been detected in several other countries. As a result of this outbreak, which was associated with unvaccinated children, California did something amazing. Its legislature passed a law, SB 277, that eliminated nonmedical exemptions to school vaccine mandates, and the governor actually signed it. As a result, parents could no longer invoke religion or “personal belief” as a reason to refuse vaccination for their children.

And it was good, particularly for the children of California.

There was, however, a problem. All was not perfect, even with SB 277. The reason was simple. To get the law passed, certain compromises had to be made, the most problematic of which was that SB 277 allowed any physician to write medical exemption letters for parents, with no real provision for effective oversight to make sure that only medically accepted indications were used as the reason for the exemption, other than the state medical board, which has, unfortunately, been hardly any oversight at all. (“Dr. Bob” Sears was one exception.) Anyone who knew the antivaccine movement and the quacks who enable it could have predicted what would come next. (Certainly I did.) Predictably, the antivaccine quacks in California saw this loophole as a business opportunity. It wasn’t long before quacks started selling bogus medical exemptions for antivaccine or vaccine-hesitant parents, claiming all sorts of scientifically unsupportable “indications,” such as for allergies, family history of autism, or autoimmune diseases, none of which are accepted medical contraindications for vaccination. Some even did it online, and in the Bay area five doctors wrote one-third of the medical exemption letters.

And it was not good.

Thus was born SB 276. In response to the problem of antivaccine-sympathetic doctors writing bogus medical exemptions, Senator Richard Pan, who had co-sponsored SB 277 and was the driving force behind getting it passed, introduced SB 276. In brief, SB 276 would mandate a database of medical exemptions, so that the state can keep track of which doctors are issuing the most medical exemptions, and require that requests for medical exemptions to school vaccine mandates be approved by the State Public Health Officer or designee, who could reject exemptions not supported by science.

SB 276 as passed would also require the department to annually review immunization reports from schools, to identify schools with an overall immunization rate of less than 95%, physicians and surgeons who submitted five or more medical exemption forms in a calendar year, and schools and institutions that do not report immunization rates to the department. It would also require a clinically trained staff member who is a physician, surgeon, or a registered nurse to review all medical exemptions meeting these conditions, authorizing the State Public Health Officer to review the exemptions identified by that staff member as fraudulent or inconsistent with established guidelines. The department can report physicians issuing fraudulent or scientifically unjustified medical exemptions to the state medical board. Other important changes to the law in SB 276 include provisions that: (1) require physicians issuing a medical exemption to actually see and examine the child; (2) require physicians who are not the child’s primary care physician to notify that child’s primary care physician when they issue an exemption; (3) require physicians to use a state form that requires them to clearly address the specific contraindications to vaccination being invoked; (4) bar physicians demanding a separate charge for writing an exemption, although of course they can charge for the office visit during which they evaluate and examine the child.

All of these were reasonable, albeit also a compromise. Governor Gavin Newsom had demanded that SB 276 narrow its focus to reviewing medical exemption requests from doctors who write five or more medical exemptions in a year and to requests coming from schools or day cares with immunization rates of less than 95%. it wasn’t a horrible compromise, but it was less than ideal. As the bill was ready to send to his desk, though, Gov. Newsom went back on his promise to sign it, and demanded more changes. Specifically, he didn’t want the state to review medical exemptions issued before January 2020, when the law went into effect, a truly stupid idea that would have, if passed, sparked a mad rush by parents to secure nonmedical exemptions before the end of 2019.

Fortunately, an agreement was struck. Gov. Newsom agreed to sign SB 276 as long as the changes he wants were passed in a second bill, SB 714. Gov. Newsom signed both bills into law at the same time. The agreement was definitely a mixed bag. Unfortunately, it included Gov. Newsom’s mind-numbingly bad idea to grandfather in all existing medical exemptions before January 1, 2020. SB 714 also unfortunately removed a provision in SB 276 that would have required doctors to certify that medical exemptions are accurate, under penalty of perjury. However, Senator Richard Pan, who had spearheaded both SB 277 and SB 276, managed to get Gov. Newsom to require that a new medical exemption would be required when a child enters kindergarten and then seventh grade or when a child changes schools. By adding that provision, permanent medical exemptions could no longer be valid throughout a child’s K-12 education.

With that background, now on to the confusion:

A pair of hotly debated new California laws limiting which schoolchildren can skip vaccines appears stuck in bureaucratic limbo, the result of uncertainty over how to interpret last-minute changes made before the legislation was signed last year by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Meanwhile, the state Department of Public Health, which is tasked with offering key guidance on the new vaccine laws, has been silent on the confusion over the rules.

Senate Bill 276 calls for the public health department to create a standardized vaccine exemption form that doctors will electronically submit to the state for review beginning next January. Newsom insisted on a second piece of legislation — Senate Bill 714 — to ensure the new rules would be “implemented in an effective manner.”

I was afraid of this. The whole manner in which Gov. Newsom demanded changes in SB 276 so late in the process, leading to a rushed, jury-rigged solution that further watered down SB 276 with SB 714. It’s also true that one aspect of SB 714 did improve on SB 276, namely the invalidation of any medical exemption written by a physician who has been disciplined by the Medical Board of California or is under investigation for any reason, even if that reason is unrelated to vaccines.

Of course, there’s a problem with this. Regulations are where the rubber hits the road for any new law. They’re needed to implement the law and to guide public health and school officials on how to follow the law. The California Department of Public Health has not yet provided the guidance necessary:

But school nurses who review medical exemptions said that unless they receive guidance from the public health department telling them otherwise, exemptions granted by scrutinized doctors will not be reviewed until 2021.

“I don’t think most school nurses understand this law,” said California School Nurses Assn. President Pamela Kahn. “When reading the law, I can see why you would assume it’s happening now, but that’s not happening now in the school community.”

Why? Surprise! Surprise! A hastily written law with ambiguous passages often leads to confusion in implementation:

While the law allows the state to review medical exemptions written before Jan. 1 in cases in which the approving physician has been disciplined by the medical board, it does not specifically say when those reviews should begin. Most California statutes take effect on the first day of the year after approval by the governor. But several key provisions in the vaccine law specify that they should take effect in 2021, leading some to say that later date also applies to the new review process.

The statute also doesn’t indicate whether the review of a disciplined doctor’s medical exemptions would be scrutinized automatically once punishment is finalized, or if decisions to investigate would be made on a case-by-case basis. It’s also unclear if the disciplinary action that brings additional scrutiny must be related to immunizations.

The article notes that there are currently four doctors with pending allegations related to immunizations before the medical board, including Drs. Sears, Ron Kennedy of Santa Rosa, Tara Zandvliet of San Diego and Kenneth Stoller of Santa Rosa.

And the public health department isn’t exactly a speedy bureaucracy:

But the language of SB 714 references a standardized form that has yet to be created by the public health department. Pan contends the intent of the law is still clear — doctors under investigation should not be writing new medical exemptions.

The public health department has until next January to create the form, which will be electronically transmitted to the state’s immunization registry for review — and possible rejection — by state public health officials. The public health department declined to comment on its timeline for crafting the new document.

Meanwhile, it certainly doesn’t help that Gov. Newsom’s wife, California First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom, is playing footsies with the antivaccine movement:

California First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom told anti-vaccine protesters rallying outside her Sacramento-area home that her husband’s administration is looking into their concerns about California’s new laws limiting who can be exempted from shots required for school, while also saying she believes there needs to be more dialog about whether some immunizations are unnecessary.

In a video taken Monday, Siebel Newsom is seen talking with the protesters about the vaccine laws signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom last year before she asks that they not post the video online.

“I think there needs to be more conversation around spreading out vaccines, around only giving children the vaccines that are most essential,” Siebel Newsom says in a portion of the short video posted on the Facebook page of one of the protesters.

Seriously, I have a hard time concluding from Ms. Newsom’s actions anything other than that she is, if not antivaccine herself, at the very least antivaccine-sympathetic or, a term I sometimes also use, antivaccine-adjacent. Those are some rather obvious antivaccine dog whistles that she reportedly laid down at that meeting! Indeed, the article reports that Ms. Newsom told the antivaccine protesters that Dr. Mark Ghaly, Secretary of the Health and Human Services Agency, which oversees the Department of Public Health, which in turn is responsible for implementing the law, is “talking to integrative and functional medicine doctors who understand this.” I can’t make up my mind whether this deserves the Godzilla Facepalm or the Jesus facepalm; so here are both:

Godzilla facepalm

As I’ve said before, functional medicine is quackery that combines the worst of conventional medicine (overtesting and overtreatment) with the worst of “alternative medicine” (pure quackery). It’s basically “make it up as you go along.” As for “integrative medicine,” that’s “integrating” quackery with medicine. Clearly, Ms. Newsom is into some dubious medicine; so it doesn’t surprise me that she at least leans antivaccine.

In fact, “antivaccine-adjacent” does seem to describe her, as she tries to have it both ways:

In the video, Siebel Newsom urged protesters to trust the new laws. The group has said it is concerned that the laws would erode the doctor-patient relationship by allowing the state’s public health department to determine whether a medical exemption is invalid.

“You have to trust,” she said. “If your child has a sensitivity or a vulnerability, then your doctors can still go through the process.”

She seems to think that there is medical controversy about this. There isn’t, which is why contraindications to vaccination are pretty clearcut and few in number. Her statement seems to imply that she thinks that doctors should be able to justify medical exemptions to vaccine mandates based on their “medical judgment.” We saw the result when California doctors were allowed to do that. That’s why SB 276 and SB 714 were passed in the first place!

My guess now is that Ms. Newsom was the problem when her husband reversed himself, went back on his promise to sign SB 276 in the form to which he had previously agreed, and demanded more changes. In a way, although it did weaken the law, in another way it strengthened it by invalidating the medical exemptions by doctors sanctioned by the medical board; that is, if the Department of Public Health ever gets around to implementing the law. Another wrinkle is that at least one antivaxxer claims that the Newsoms don’t vaccinate their children, although I take that story with a huge grain of salt.

I wasn’t able to find the actual video, which makes me suspect that the antivaccine protester who posted it took it down. I say this particularly in light of having come across a post like this chiding fellow antivaxxers for having posted the video of Ms. Newsom’s conversation with the protesters:

Key comment:

The California press has been on to the governor’s wife for many months. There are people who leaked things out they should have kept private, and there are people who fancy themselves as influential personalities in this movement who wanted to tell THIS EXACT REPORTER what was going on because they thought this was a friendly reporter.

Cutting the video off but still posting it has done colossal damage. Sure, there are things Jennifer said that aren’t shared, but the fact that she is sympathetic to the cause, willing to listen and help how she can, willing to have off the record conversations, and FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, alludes to anything that looks like she is willing to use her influence over her husband (which is illegal) for our cause is damning enough. She will never speak to strangers again, nor will anyone else with two brain cells to rub together.

This is not about the moms being mad or who votes. Until CA gets medical freedom advocates into office everyone there is perfectly happy with how things are. You have no power, as has been shown time and time again. By the time your people are in office, Gavin will be running for the White House. She wasn’t pandering to random people outside of her house. She came out to help.

Who thought Melody Gutierrez (the reporter) was friendly to the antivaccine movement? Well, I had my suspicions based on her story about Dr. Bob Sears that had a lot of false balance and basically portrayed Dr. Bob as a brave maverick bucking the system. So maybe antivaxxers in California have reasons to suspect that she’s a friendly reporter. This time around, she apparently betrayed them and ran with the story. Some of the antivaxxers in the thread seemed to think that Ms. Newsom merely met with the antivaxxers to do “damage control” for her husband. Maybe, but she clearly blew that antivaccine dog whistle and signaled she was at least sympathetic to antivaccine views.

California will, of course, eventually work out the details and the kinks, but the process is much more difficult and confusing than it needed to be, thanks to Gavin Newsom’s interference and reneging on his initial deal, actions likely influenced by his wife. It certainly doesn’t help that his wife recently met with antivaccine protesters and signaled to them that she’s sympathetic not just to their concerns but that she shares their affinity for quackery. It’s a good thing for transparency that antivaxxers just can’t to keep their mouths shut and that they have an obsessive need to post everything they do on social media. Attempts by antivaxxers to influence her to influence her husband are now public record. Gov. Newsom and his wife will have to tread very carefully now, and that’s a good thing.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

45 replies on “Confusion reigns over implementation of SB 276 and SB 714. Is Gov. Newsom to blame?”

I wrote a concise note to Governor Newsom in support of SB 276 and calling out his wife’s comments, noting that it is now incumbent on him to make a clear statement in support of the good that vaccines have and continue to do, and the science behind the current schedule.

Won’t do a damn bit of good, but at least there’s a “pro SB 276” letter in his box that his handlers have to count.

Two of the four doctors being singled out are from Santa Rosa. It’s not a large city ( 175K population) in a state of 40 million.

My partner’s sister lives in Santa Rosa. It’s pretty much the stereotype of the granola crunchy variety of wooism come to life. They even have weird local alt-med thingies advertised with fairly large signs inside the Costco there. But then the other two are in Orange County, which is pretty much the opposite. Either way, I think we can fairly surmise that there are a LOT more than four docs in violation, the medical board isn’t exactly on top of the issue (I’m shocked, SHOCKED!), and the four aren’t necessarily a representative sample of anything…

AND SR is right next door to Sebastopol. I swear, I have never been to such a sinkhole ( although a highly entertaining sinkhole) of woo in my entire life and I’ve been to Boulder and Woodstock, NY ( also Brattleboro VT and the vortex of Nyack, NY). A commenter at RI once wrote about ancient Volvos fueled with grease trap oils and hippie mothers and tie-dye wearing toddlers traipsing about: I went there, IT”S ALL TRUE!.
I found Ukiah to be a toned down version..
I do actually like these places and their inhabitants.

How so? What part?

Tangentially, what part of NorCal are you from? Humbolt county? Eureka? Mt Shasta? Yuba? Chico?

@ JustaTech – Is your question directed at Denice? I’m gonna guess she is not from the U.S. I believe she is either an Aussie or from the U.K. like ScienceMom.

It would be ‘ScienceMum’ if she was from the UK. Or maybe ‘ScienceMam’ if she was from the northern parts of the UK. ‘ScienceMother’ if you were posh and ‘ScienceMater’ if you were from the past. Of course she could also be ‘Science’erindoors’ in Ireland I’m told.

Ms. White, let me translate the ‘nym “norcalskinny”:

nor = northern
cal = California
skinny = is either a brag on the person’s weight or that they like skim milk in their lattes

The names used by JustaTech are specific locations in Northen California. By the way, that is the state on the west coast of the USA which is being discussed in the above article. Perhaps you should read it.

I’ve heard “the skinny” used to refer to true information: the “lowdown” on something. It may be regional or ethnic.

@ Chris:

I never heard that!
My reference is from a black woman who wrote a book on dieting and a film.

Denice, back a few years there were many jokes on complicated coffee orders, though I noticed “skinny” has been replaced with “non-fat no foam”. So I guess I just dated myself.

@ Chris:

Well, I never got the lingo at all because of my tendency to order cappuccino, on the average, once a year.
and coffee, never**.
Although I have on occasion hung out in cafes in hipster towns drinking tea/ chai or eating biscotti. I should try latte.

** virtually no coffee for decades. I know , I am a rara avis.

I drank lattes for a few years. Though in the stressful time when we were building our house I would get a double shot of espresso with a shot of whipped cream. Now I am just down to getting plain ol’ drip coffee, and glad the coffee shops offer “medium roast.”

I’ve heard “the skinny” used to refer to true information: the “lowdown” on something. It may be regional or ethnic.

That’s the only sense I’ve heard it in with the definite article.

After a wee bit of googling, I learned a “NorCal Skinny” is a type of margarita:

Since I cannot stand tequila I was not aware of its existence. So at least we know what this newest troll is drinking.

Which is even better. I was originally using the “skinny” bit as a jab at someone being obnoxious at ordering coffee. This is better because it is someone being more obnoxious with their “paleo” alcohol.

@ Denise

I suppose I must be a rara avis as well. Don’t drink coffee, not even cappucino. And though I’m Dutch, I don’t like cheese.

After a wee bit of googling, I learned a “NorCal Skinny” is a type of margarita

The “paleo” aspect is hilarious. This precious beverage should be garnished with a skewer of pork belly.

Attention on Ms. Newsom’s anti-vaxx activities are only a good thing as now, Gov. Newsom has to step very carefully to avoid the appearance of being influenced by his wife and her hobby horse. That anti-vaxxer’s comment is very revealing; they have the awareness that what they are doing is dubious at best, illegal at worst.

IKR? I not sure who who administers the Hear This Well FB page (is it Polly Tommey?), but she clearly was unhappy that an antivaxxer at the meeting recorded it and posted part of the conversation on an antivax FB page and let a reporter know about it, even a reporter thought sympathetic to the antivaccine movement. As well she should be! Tactically, it was an incredibly stupid thing to do. It told the governor’s wife that antivaxxers aren’t to be trusted (which we already know), particularly given that she explicitly asked the antivaxxers not to post the video, while at the same time putting the governor in a very delicate situation, as you pointed out. He’ll have to be very careful now not to do anything perceived to have been based on the influence of his wife.

Antivaxxers, through their incessant need to trumpet everything they do, are their own worst enemies sometimes, thankfully.

I’m not surprised Melody Gutierrez posted the video. It’s common for journalists to adopt what we might call situational biases in pursuit of “good copy”. For every reporter with a consistent bias, there’s another that plays both ends against the middle. Some of this is that they need to curry favor with a variety of sources from different positions, and so write stories to curry favor with one side ‘today’, and another side ‘tomorrow’. E.g. in national political journalism there’s a guy from the NYT named Ken Vogel who boosted the whole Hunter Biden/Burisma and Ukraine-was-out-against Trump conspiracy theories, ginning up truly terrible stories out of nothing but inuendo. But that was last year, and more recently he’s published some pretty damning exposes of other Trump misdeeds. I can’t be sure Gutierrez is the same kind of slimeball as Vogel, but that’s what your account of that kerfuffle reminded me of.

I went back and checked her story on Dr. Bob. It really was awful, and if anything, you were too kind as to her intent with the “brave maverick doctor” angle. It was more than just an accident, or a reflexive employment of a common story frame. The lesson, I guess, is that it’s a mistake to assume that “hard news’ reporters have any consistent and predictable ideology on these kinds of issues – which is pretty consistent with the findings of good sociological research over the years…

The lesson, I guess, is that it’s a mistake to assume that “hard news’ reporters have any consistent and predictable ideology on these kinds of issues – which is pretty consistent with the findings of good sociological research over the years…

Does “good” encompass reproducibility?

It’s bad enough that anti-vaxers are creating confusion and spreading misinformation regarding vaccines and diseases that we understand very well…but now we are faced with a brand new virus, spreading quickly, with an unknown mortality rate, and they continue to attack the very healthcare infrastructure which will be responsible for trying to respond to this potential (and very likely) pandemic.

I wonder if constant news in real time about the international spread of the Corona virus might influence how the general public ( non- anti-vaxxers) perceive the roles of vaccines and public health experts when they get scared enough about just what a pandemic encompasses.
Of course, the already anti-vax enthralled will use it as an opportunity to spread more lies and mis-information about vaccines and corrupt SBM as they do about Samoa.

I am not so certain about it. I have relatives in Italy (an hotspot of the virus right now), and they reported to me in sheer shock that quite some people goes on the “let’s hope they find a vaccine soon, but let’s be sure that the vaccine will not be compulsory!” refrain.
My very cynic opinion is that this stuff is not scary enough.

I have relatives in Italy (an hotspot of the virus right now), and they reported to me in sheer shock that quite some people goes on the “let’s hope they find a vaccine soon, but let’s be sure that the vaccine will not be compulsory!” refrain.

Well, they may rest assured that a vaccine is years away.

What a wonderful mascot for the ditzy blond stereotype.

There needs to be a a massive public media blitz about the vaccination schedule–because this is the one “argument” that hits home for even otherwise reasonable people. I myself fell for this one long ago when my youngest (ten years younger than the first brood) kept having to get more shots. I actually got an exemption for some of them (but caught him up when I was educated–but I have an open and inquiring mind and actually looked into it in a responsible way).

“There must be some way out of here
Said the joker to the thief
There’s too much confusion
I can’t get no relief”

The moral of this story
The moral of this song
Is simply that one should never be
Where one does not belong.

Per the LA Times via our good ol’ pal Melody Gutierrez: “Siebel Newsom begins to say that “I’ve been trying to have dialog internally” before stopping to say, “I don’t really want you guys to post this.”

I would’ve thought that a Governor’s wife would have had some media training, on the outside chance that she is occasionally in public making comments on behalf of a politician. Obviously not, or maybe she failed the media course the first time and antivaxxers got to her before she had remedial training.

“…but the fact that she is sympathetic to the cause, willing to listen and help how she can, willing to have off the record conversations, and FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, alludes to anything that looks like she is willing to use her influence over her husband (which is illegal) for our cause is damning enough.”

Great quote, that one, though it underscores the paradox of denialism: it shows insight as regards consequences (legal, political, personal) by a person that is clearly a science/vaccine denier. This is the first time I’ve ever read that an antivaxxer acknowledges engaging in illegal activity, in this case by the posting of Siebel Newsom admitting during a video that she’ll influence her hubby to act in her (and “the cause’s”) favor. It sure doesn’t seem as though she plans to ask hubby to make “the cause” a referendum topic. Nope, it has a, how would one say it, let’s-just-do-it-her-way implication. Nice!

What’s next, Siebel Newsom as a guest on Bill Maher’s show this week explaining why delaying childhood vaccines is best, followed by a Dunning- Krugeresque list of unnecessary vaccines?

Speaking of denialism:

Darn-tootin’-I’m-a-Scientist James Lyons-Weiler is continuing his vendetta against the CBC for revealing his fundraising tactics as part of reporting on the antivax movement. He’s now urging supporters to email the CEO of the CBC to complain.

Might be nice to send that person a brief email congratulating her for the CBC’s reporting.

[email protected]

A. Ms. Newsom not only showed herself as antivaccine sympathetic, she seriously overstepped. She does not have the authority to change state law or undermine its implementation. And if her husband goes there because of her antivaccine sympathies he fails his duties. One of my take away is that the Newsom administration needs to be watched closely for its compliance with the law on this, and for any efforts to undermine it.

B. I know of at least one more doctor under investigation and I expect there are more.

C. Note that SB277 did not meaningfully change the medical exemption. It did not make it weaker; it left it as is. I would say that strengthening ut would likely not have been politically feasible then, but that wasn’t a change in the bill.

She does not have the authority to change state law or undermine its implementation. And if her husband goes there because of her antivaccine sympathies he fails his duties.

There is something in this which is annoying me.
A few months ago, there was the story of another governor, who credited his wife (a nurse or former nurse) for helping him shaping his opinion about making a pro-vaccine law.
We were supporting of this.

You can point that, in that other case, the spouse’s position was science-based, but it’s not my question. I’m talking ethics. If it is unethical for a politician to let himself be influenced by family members, then why are we allowing it?
I’m not talking corruption or nepotism. Just people from the politician’s family doing their own political/social stuff and, since they got the ear of the policymaker, dropping their opinions and advocacy on him.

Do we accept that a spouse influences a lawmaker only when it’s convenient for us? Or is there a specific line in the sand which was crossed in this story?

I’m not sure what the basis is for the “illegal” bit; she certainly seems to be pretty busy on other matters.

Of course, what’s different here is that she tried to keep it secret.

I may have been unclear.

Governors are always going to be influenced by family members. That’s inevitable and normal.

But here, Ms. Newsom seemed to suggest she is directly interfering in how the health department implements the law, in ways that would actually violate the law – suggesting she wants to tell them to require less than the vaccines required by law. That’s not even within the governor’s mandate – he’s bound by state law – and is far beyond any role she has.

Influence shouldn’t extend to ignoring existing, valid law.

When a politician is influenced by a close relative the problem is the politician not the relative.

But here, Ms. Newsom seemed to suggest she is directly interfering in how the health department implements the law, in ways that would actually violate the law – suggesting she wants to tell them to require less than the vaccines required by law.

Thanks for the explanation.

@ Dorit Reiss

Thanks for the precision. I’m finding now myself fully agreeing with you.

Governors are always going to be influenced by family members. That’s inevitable and normal.

The only way to avoid that would be to put the politician’s brain in a jar, isolated from any human interaction. That may make the writing of new laws challenging, though.

I’ll go the slippery-slope way and add that any citizen is free to try to influence a lawmaker, by letter or face-to-face conversation.
Spouses have more weight than the average citizen, and thus, morally, should ideally exercise their own influence cautiously, but apart from that…
And to echo @ rs, politicians are free to take suggestions for their policies from wherever they like, but some due diligence and fact-checking would be appreciated.

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