NEW YORK (AP) — A New York lawmaker says he will withdraw a 2015 bill proposal that has become the source of unsubstantiated claims on social media that legislators are planning to detain people who refused to get vaccinated against COVID-19 beginning next year.
The social media posts are misrepresenting a bill, first introduced in the Legislature in 2015, that would allow for the temporary detention of individuals infected, or suspected of being infected, with a contagious disease during a public health emergency. The state Assembly’s health committee has no plans to take action on the bill, and its sponsor, Brooklyn Assemblyman N. Nick Perry, now says he will withdraw it.
While the proposal failed to find support among lawmakers, it is still causing a stir online. In recent days, social media users have pushed a claim that lawmakers are planning to vote on the bill as soon as January 5—and that it would allow for the “indefinite detention” of people who aren’t vaccinated against COVID. But no such vote on the bill in question was slated for that day, which is actually just the start of the legislative session.
Citing “concocted stories” online about the bill, Perry tweeted last week that he would take “legislative action to strike the bill, remove it from the calendar, thus ending all consideration, and actions that could lead to passage into law.”
The bill proposed allowing the state to temporarily detain someone carrying or suspected to be carrying a contagious disease—or someone they came into contact with—in a “medical facility or other appropriate facility.”
The bill also said such a person “shall not continue to be detained” after they are determined to be no longer contagious. It also included a provision to require the state to seek a court order if a person was to be held for more than three days.
Frank Shea, a spokesman for Perry, said the bill was first proposed in 2015 after a nurse defied quarantine after treating Ebola patients in Sierra Leone. Shea said that while Perry reintroduced the bill year after year, he had not actively pushed for the legislation and said it would be withdrawn because it had become a “distraction.”
The most recent introduction came in January 2021, when it was referred to the Assembly’s Committee on Health. There was no other action on it. Before Perry announced Monday that he would withdraw the bill, the office of Assemblyman Richard Gottfried—the chair of the Committee on Health—also said in a statement that there were no plans to vote on it.
“This bill has been introduced every year since 2015, has never been taken up by the Committee, has not been cosponsored by other legislators, and has not had a companion bill in the Senate,” the statement said. “The Committee does not plan to put the bill on an agenda.”