Will SB 277 Opponents Take Referendum Route?

vaccineToday, Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 277 authored by Senators Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) and Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica) which removes personal exemptions of vaccination requirements for entrance to a school.

Governor Brown included a message to the California State Senate to explain his reasoning for signing the bill:

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 arguments that has 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 immunizations 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.

The message from the Governor may not sway the strong vocal opponents of SB 277 who have been waging a public campaign up and down the state to stop the bill through the legislative hurdle.

The question now will the opponents of SB 277 take the referendum route, which is allowed under the California State Constitution Article II, Section 9 that provides electors/voters an option to approve or reject part of law/statute.

If so, it will be no easy task because according to the Secretary of State under the referendum rules:

A proponent has only 90 days from the date of the enactment of a bill (or in the case of a redistricting map, the date a final map is certified to the Secretary of State) to request and receive a circulating title and summary from the Attorney General (Elections Code § 9006(a) allows 10 days for the preparation of the circulating title and summary), print petitions, gather the required number of valid signatures, and file the petitions with the county elections officials.

The petitions must be signed by registered voters in an amount equal to 5% of the votes cast for all candidates for Governor at the gubernatorial election. The total number of signatures required as of November 4, 2014, is 365,880.

Therefore, the clock started the minute Governor Brown signed SB 277 and the deadline for opponents of SB 277 to have the petition signatures filed with county elections officials will be on Monday, September 28, 2015.

If the opponents are successful, then the referendum will appear on the November 2016 General Election ballot.

It must have been a strategy for Governor Brown to sign the bill so quickly, because he could have waited 12 days to sign the bill which would have been on July 12, 2015 and the deadline for the opponents to turn in their signatures would have instead been on Saturday, October 10, 2015.

The most recent contentious bill coming out of the California legislature was in 2013 with the passage of AB 1266 authored by then-Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) that would allowed transgendered students to use bathrooms and sports teams to match the gender that they identify with.

The opponents of AB 1266 did beat the petition campaign of 614,244 signatures by just 4 days with various county election officials, but they were short of 17,276 signatures and did not meet the threshold requirement for the referendum to be on the general election ballot in 2014.

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