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Governor Signs Vaccine Mandate Bill, Opponents Say They Will Fight for Repeal

July 9, 2015

With little fanfare, Governor Jerry Brown signed the much-debated vaccine mandate bill (SB 277, authored by Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, and Sen. Ben Allen, D-Santa Monica) on June 30.

Opponents of the bill quickly announced a petition drive to put a proposition before California voters in November 2016, asking them to repeal the legislation. Opponents also announced recall efforts targeting several legislators who supported SB 277. And a court effort challenging the new law is considered likely as well.

Gov. Brown issued a signing statement that said:

“SB 277 has occasioned widespread interest and controversy – with both proponents and opponents expressing their positions with eloquence and sincerity. After carefully reviewing the materials and argument that have been presented, I have decided to sign this bill.”

“The science is clear that vaccines dramatically protect children against a number of infectious and dangerous diseases. While it’s true that no medical intervention is without risk, the evidence shows that immunization powerfully benefits and protects the community.”

“The Legislature, after considerable debate, specifically amended SB 277, to exempt a child from immunization whenever the child’s physician concludes that there are ‘circumstances, including but not limited to, family medical history, for which the physician does not recommend immunization.”

“Thus, SB 277, while requiring that school children be vaccinated, explicitly provides an exception when a physician believes that circumstances – in the judgement and sound discretion of the physician – so warrant.”

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson praised Governor Jerry Brown for signing the vaccine legislation today and issued the following statement:

"I support Senate Bill 277 as part of my responsibility to protect the health and safety of California's 6.2 million students. For the California Department of Education, for the 1,100 school districts, for all other local educational agencies, and county offices of education, the health and safety of our children is paramount.

"By eliminating the personal belief exemption, SB 277 will increase the vaccination rates of our students. These rates have dropped so low during the past few years that the risk of disease outbreaks has risen significantly. At the same time, the bill provides educational options for families that decide against vaccinating their children.

"The bill protects the health of our children and our communities, especially those too young or too ill to receive vaccines. The bill protects against the outbreaks of debilitating, crippling, and costly preventable diseases such as measles, mumps, rubella, and chicken pox. It will help keep students healthy so they can attend school, learn, and succeed."

SB 277 is scheduled to go into effect on July 1, 2016, meaning that school districts would need to follow the new law starting in the 2016-17 school year.

However, that timeline could change if opponents of SB 277 are successful in placing a ballot measure on the statewide ballot. Opponents of the SB 277 have 90 days from June 30 (the day the Governor signed SB 277) to file at least 365,880 valid signatures and all other necessary paperwork needed to get a referendum on the November 2016 ballot aimed at repealing the law. If they succeed, the new law wouldn't go into effect until after the November 2016 election.

Sources:  Governor’s Press Office, California Department of Education, EdBrief staff

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