Referendum to Repeal Immunization Bill Fails to Qualify for Ballot

Lozano Smith Client News Brief
November 2015
Number 67

A referendum that would have repealed Senate Bill (SB) 277, which eliminates personal belief and religious exemptions for school vaccine requirements, recently failed to qualify for the November 2016 ballot. This means that SB 277 will go into effect on January 1, 2016, although its requirements do not fully take effect until July 1, 2016.

As previously reported (See Client News Brief No. 36, July 2015), SB 277 was signed into law on June 30, 2015, and became the strictest mandatory vaccination law in the country. Opponents of the new law almost immediately began gathering signatures to place a referendum on the November 2016 ballot that would repeal SB 277. Had the referendum qualified for the ballot, the implementation of SB 277 would have been stayed pending the results of the November 2016 election. However, the opponents of the new law failed to submit the required number of valid signatures before the deadline, and on October 9, 2015 the Secretary of State's office announced that the referendum had failed to qualify. Therefore, there will be no stay, and SB 277 will go into effect next year.

Under current law, immunizations are required for students entering public or private elementary or secondary school or day care, and for students advancing to 7th grade. Current law allows exemptions for medical reasons or for religious or personal beliefs. SB 277 eliminates the personal and religious belief exemptions for students entering school or before advancing to 7th grade, beginning on July 1, 2016.

Students enrolling in school before January 1, 2016 may still use the personal and religious belief exemption. In addition, a student with a personal or religious belief waiver on file will still be allowed to enroll throughout the "grade span" they are in as of January 1, 2016. The defined "grade spans" are: (1) birth through preschool, (2) Kindergarten through 6th grade, and 7th grade through 12th grade. However, under SB 277, students advancing to the next "grade span" after July 1, 2016 will not be able to use the personal belief exemption.

Although some SB 277 opponents have indicated that they will seek to place an initiative on the November 2016 ballot that would restore the religious and personal belief exemptions, an initiative would not serve to stay the implementation of SB 277. Thus, even if the initiative were to qualify for the ballot, SB 277 will still take effect next year.

If you have any questions regarding the new immunization requirements or other student obligations, please contact one of our nine offices located statewide. You can also visit our website, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or download our Client News Brief App.
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As the information contained herein is necessarily general, its application to a particular set of facts and circumstances may vary. For this reason, this News Brief does not constitute legal advice. We recommend that you consult with your counsel prior to acting on the information contained herein.