Requiring meningitis vaccine discussed; "historic" horseracing nears vote

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March 12, 2013 - 5:32pm

The Nebraska Legislature’s Education committee held a public hearing Tuesday on whether or not students should have to be vaccinated against a form of meningitis. Meanwhile, lawmakers limped towards a vote on "historic" horseracing.

Omaha Sen. Bob Krist is the sponsor of the bill to require vaccinations against meningococcal disease for seventh graders and for 16-year-olds. Krist said the vaccine is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control. He referred to stories of young people who go to bed with what they think is the flu, but wind up dying of meningitis. "If they’re vaccinated as youth and they’re kept up to speed on their vaccinations, the risk factors are negligible," he said.

Korby Gilbertson, a lobbyist representing vaccine manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur, supported the proposal.

Lori Harvey, who described herself as an independent researcher on the dangers of vaccines, was among opponents of the bill. Harvey said some supporters had a financial motive. "Sanofi has testified the last few years at this committee meeting. They stand to make money from this law being mandated. Their vaccine has been approved by the FDA, but so has every other drug on the market," Harvey said.

Other opponents told stories of children being diagnosed with learning disabilities after having a bad reaction to vaccines.

Krist noted that the bill contains exceptions to the requirement for students who get a statement from a health care provider who thinks the vaccine would be injurious to them or their family members, or if it violates the beliefs of their religion. The committee took no immediate action on the bill.

Lawmakers also spent a fourth day debating a proposed constitutional amendment that would authorize betting on so-called "historic" horseraces.

That is a term for videos of races that have already been run, with handicapping information provided, but without information that would identify which specific race someone was betting on before he or she placed a bet.

Supporters say allowing such betting at the state’s existing racetracks will help support Nebraska’s live racing industry, which Ogallala Sen. Ken Schilz recalled fondly. "Some of us remember some of those days, going to the parks and watching the races, getting to go back into the barns and seeing how the horses were taken care of, and what happened during those days -- how interesting it was and how enjoyable it was as a family affair. I want to see those things continue – those experiences continue," Schilz said.

Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers, filibustering against the proposal, mocked the notion that betting on historic horseraces would support a family-friendly activity. "Families comprise adults and children. You can’t take your children to this. You don’t want your children to be taught that this is the thing to do, that this is the way you get money – you get it without working," Chambers said.

The Legislature adjourned without reaching a vote on the proposal. But senators have now debated six hours and forty eight minutes on it. That means after another hour and twelve minutes Wednesday, they will have reached the informal eight hour threshold for a cloture vote to show if the measure has enough legs to make it to the next round of debate.

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