A former state assemblyman known for his defiant conservatism is seeking to reverse California’s newly passed vaccination mandate.
The day after Gov. Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 277, an intensely controversial bill requiring all California schoolchildren to be fully vaccinated, former Assemblyman Tim Donnelly submitted paperwork to overturn the law. Opponents of the bill have also predicted a legal challenge, arguing the law will unconstitutionally block unvaccinated children from receiving an education.
Proponents will have 90 days to collect at least 365,880 valid referendum signatures. If they succeed, SB 277 could not take effect until after the Nov. 1, 2016 election – a few months into the school year when the law would first apply.
During his time in the Legislature, Donnelly carved out a reputation as the most outspokenly libertarian member of his party, rising often to denounce the Democratic majority on issues like gun control and illegal immigration. He sought the Republican nomination for governor last year, enjoying a groundswell of conservative support before succumbing to the more moderate Neel Kashkari.
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After leaving Sacramento, Donnelly launched a radio show, advertised as a transmission from “deep behind enemy lines in the occupied territory of the socialist republic of California.” He has used the platform to promote vaccine bill opponents, who see the law as a government attack on parental freedom.
“With the stroke of a pen, Gov. Jerry Brown signed away a parent’s rights to choose what’s best for their own child,” Donnelly said in an interview. He added that while he chose to get his own children vaccinated, “I made the choice of my own free will. I wasn’t forced or compelled by the government.”
Delaying implementation would mean “a longer period of time in which we’d be vulnerable to outbreaks,” warned Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, who authored SB 277. But Pan said he remained confident voters would reject an effort to overturn the law, pointing to a recent Public Policy Institute of California poll showing broad support.
“We’re pretty clear that the strong majority of Californians support vaccination and requiring vaccinations for school,” Pan said. “People fought for this bill – they’ll mobilize to defend the bill.”