Vaccine bill: Senate doesn’t have the votes to end religious exemption
TRENTON — With a vote scheduled for Monday afternoon, Democrats do not have the 21 state Senate votes required to pass a bill that would eliminate religious exceptions to New Jersey's mandatory vaccines for public school children, according to NJ.com.
The bill's future in the Assembly is also in question.
Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg told NJ.com the vote is “still a little uncertain.”
The proposed law — S2173/A3818 — was approved in the Assembly last month but stalled in the Senate when leaders could not muster the 21 votes needed to pass it.
The proposal has met with fierce opposition by groups and parents who are against mandatory vaccinations — not always for religious reasons. The law would still allow for medical exemptions to vaccines.
State Sen. Declan O'Scanlon, R-Monmouth, agreed to vote for the bill, which could give it enough votes to pass, after the Senate voted 18-15 Thursday to approve an amendment to allow private schools and child care centers the option to decide whether to admit non-vaccinated students.
Senate President Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester, said last week the amendments are a fair compromise, even if the opposition has been "aggressive." But even he was not fully confident the votes were there.
“Listen, we’re either going to get it done now, or we’ll get it done in the next session. But by all means, this is getting done," he told reporters Thursday afternoon.
The bill, which was already approved by the Assembly, has to get a second vote with the addition of the amendment. Passage there is also not a certainty.
Assemblyman Jamel Holley over the weekend spoke out against the bill on his social media and argued the private school exemption added to the bill is a form of segregation. Some opponents of the amendment have argued it gives parents with the means to afford private school more control over their children's healthcare than parents who can only afford to send their children to public school.
"Senator O'Scanlon's vaccine amendments cuts into the fiber of all we have accomplished. To suggest that we begin to segregate our students is an abomination of what every righteous leader should be standing up against," the Roselle Democrat wrote on his Facebook page.
"I've been totally against this bill from day one and now I am even more compelled to oppose. This includes bringing along my fellow Members of the Assembly to vote against this discriminatory, unconstitutional, and an over reach of government," Holley wrote.
Holley said that the majority of the African American members of the Assembly will not in favor of the bill and offered encouragement to individuals opposed to the bill.
“Righteousness will win everytime! People over politics will win everytime!! Stay strong my #FreedomFighters See you in Trenton!! Let's GO!!" he wrote.
Previous reporting by Michael Symons and the Associated Press was included in this report
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