The article written by an AP journalist and published by the Boston Globe doesn’t mention when the vote took place on this bill or what the bill is. That lack of information is unacceptable since this bill has been around some time. Below is a brief history of the bill passed today with links to appropriate texts published by the Massachusetts government.
The two bills that make up this discussion are Senate bill number 2028 — nee, Senate 18 — and House bill number 108. In looking at the history of the Senate bill, you can see that the number was changed to House 4271 after it left the Committee on Ways and Means and was voted on today.
The next step is for the disagreements in the Senate and House versions of the bills to be hammered out, voted on and then sent to the Governor for signing. At this point, my guess is that it will go through with very little debate as the Senate and House bills are very very similar.
If you don’t want this to pass, this is your last chance to do something about it. Call your local representative and tell them why you don’t want this bill to go through. Make your argument very clear, though, and stay away from the “it’s unconstitutional” thing. There is a clause in the Massachusetts Constitution in the article on property rights that reads thusly (emphasis mine):
Article X. Each individual of the society has a right to be protected by it in the enjoyment of his life, liberty and property, according to standing laws. He is obliged, consequently, to contribute his share to the expense of this protection; to give his personal service, or an equivalent, when necessary: but no part of the property of any individual can, with justice, be taken from him, or applied to public uses, without his own consent, or that of the representative body of the people. In fine, the people of this commonwealth are not controllable by any other laws than those to which their constitutional representative body have given their consent. And whenever the public exigencies require that the property of any individual should be appropriated to public uses, he shall receive a reasonable compensation therefor. [See Amendments, Arts. XXXIX, XLIII, XLVII, XLVIII, The Initiative, II, sec. 2, XLIX, L, LI and XCVII.]
As you can see, as long as Massachusetts citizens’ representatives give permission, the Constitution of this “Commonwealth” allows the removing of one’s property by the government. This bill is, in fact, constitutional according to the rules of the state. It may be unconstitutional at the federal level, but since it only affects state residents that’s a moot point.
You want my advice? Appeal to the more Libertarian nature of your representative and/or senator. Ask them whether they relish the idea of family members being forced to be vaccinated against their will. As them whether they trust future governors to understand exactly what a “statewide health emergency” entails. Is it the flu? An outbreak of the common cold? What about the vastly under-powered “Swine-flu”?
This bill only goes into effect as long as there’s a state of emergency. The logical question, then, is exactly what constitutes that state, and do we trust a single person — Governor — to declare it?
On further reading, the Massachusetts Constitution does allow for protections from search and seizure, however (Article XIV). That said, there is also a clause that allows for declarations of emergency (Article XX). There’s some fodder in there for an argument of unconstitutionality, I suppose, but I still say that the best arguments lie on other paths.