California lawmakers weigh statewide vaccination requirement for indoor restaurants, venues

Nearly everyone in California could be required to prove they're fully vaccinated before entering restaurants, bars, movie theaters, gyms, hotels, stadiums and other indoor establishments under a draft of a proposed new law.

The proposal, by Assembly members Buffy Wicks, D-Oakland, Akilah Weber, D-San Diego, and Evan Low, D-Campbell, hasn't yet been introduced in the Legislature. The Sacramento Bee obtained a copy of the draft.

As written, the proposal would take effect immediately upon the governor's signature, and would direct the Department of Public Health to develop an enforcement mechanism by Nov. 1.

The proposal would create one of the strictest statewide vaccination requirements in the nation. The state Department of Public Health said last week that it was leading the nation with a requirement that everyone attending an indoor event with 1,000 people or more show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test. That requirement takes effect Sept. 20.

The new proposal comes as Republican Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas signed an order explicitly banning vaccination requirements in that state.

The new law would exempt children who aren't eligible for vaccines and people who aren't eligible due to a medical condition or disability, subject to verification.

The requirement wouldn't apply to places where food is served exclusively for takeout or curbside pickup, according to the proposal.

The proposal also would mandate that employers require their employees to show proof of vaccination as a condition of employment, or to submit weekly COVID-19 test results as an alternative.

That would essentially expand a requirement Gov. Gavin Newsom recently imposed on state employees. The new proposal would require public employers to meet and confer with labor unions over the new rules, addressing what has been a point of contention with state employee unions.

The proposal also would require both public and private employers to provide paid sick leave to employees for vaccination appointments and for recovery from any symptoms following vaccination.

The proposal, marked with 9:07 p.m. Tuesday timestamp, is packaged in Assembly Bill 455, a piece of legislation that originally would have created bus-only lanes on the Oakland Bay Bridge.

It comes as the delta variant has prompted a new wave of infections and hospitalizations.

The proposal, if introduced, is brewing ahead of the Sept. 10 end of the first year of California's two-year legislative session. If it isn't introduced quickly, the Legislature wouldn't be able to take it up before January.

The proposal also precedes the Sept. 14 recall election of Newsom. The proposal would not likely receive support from a Republican if Newsom is recalled.

The proposal contains an "urgency clause," which likely means it would require a two-thirds majority to pass.

Democrats have super-majorities in both chambers, but the bill could still be a heavy lift. It is likely to raise objections from business interests and potentially from moderate Democrats.

Wicks did not respond to a text message seeking more information Wednesday night.

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