Assemblyman Jamel Holley is whipping votes against an amended version of a bill eliminating religious exemptions for vaccinations due for a vote in the legislature’s lower chamber on Monday.
The Assembly passed the original version of the bill 45-25 with six abstentions last month. The new version creates a carveout for private schools and daycares, though it requires those institutions report the number of enrolled children who inoculated.
“With these new amendments, I can guarantee that a majority, if not all of the African American Members of the Assembly will not be voting in support of this bill that discriminates based on wealth, address and ability to afford private education,” Holley said. “I’m working the phones, and we have gained traction to defeat the bill.”
Holley voted against the original bill, though 10 of the chamber’s black lawmakers voted in its favor. Two of those legislators, Assemblyman Herb Conaway and Assemblywoman Cleopatra Tucker, are sponsoring the bill.
Assemblywoman Britnee Timberlake abstained, and Assemblymen Benjie Wimberly and Gordon Johnson did not vote on the measure.
The new version is a result of negotiations with Republican State Sen. Declan O’Scanlon, whose vote is needed to pass the bill in the legislature’s upper chamber, where defections from five Democratic senators stalled the bill last month.
Even with O’Scanlon, the measure’s fate is far from guaranteed in the Senate, as the watering down the bill could push more Democrats to vote no.
The amendments could have a similar effect in the Assembly.
“Senator O’Scanlon’s vaccine amendments cuts into the fiber of all we have accomplished,” Holley said. “To suggest that we begin to segregate our students is an abomination of what every righteous leader should be standing up against.”