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Senate President Steve Sweeney. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe)

Sweeney: Vaccine bill will return when I have the votes

Senate president suggests measure could be passed after lame duck session

By Nikita Biryukov, January 09 2020 12:55 pm

Senate President Steve Sweeney said he intends to post a bill eliminating a religious exemption for vaccinations as soon as he has enough votes to pass it.

“When I get enough votes, I’ll be putting it up for a vote,” Sweeney said.

The measure passed the Assembly but stalled in the Senate after at least five Democratic Senators — Sens. Joe Lagana, Ronald Rice, Shirley Turner, Nia Gill and Dawn Addiego — pulled support for the bill in the face of massive ongoing protest by anti-vaxx activists.

Those protests have continued since the Dec. 16 vote, and vaccine opponents have been a ubiquitous presence in the statehouse for weeks, arriving en masse on days when the measure could not be considered.

It’s possible the bill gets posted during Thursday’s session, though there’s been no indication that Democrats in the upper chamber of the legislature have secured the votes needed to pass it.

After Thursday, the full Senate will hold just a single voting session on Jan. 13.

If Sweeney wants the bill passed before the end of the lame duck session, he’ll have to move it then, though he indicated the measure may have to wait until the new legislature is sworn in on Tuesday.

“It’s possible it can come up in lame duck. It’s possible it — I’m telling you: This will get done,” Sweeney said, appearing to stop himself from saying it was possible the bill wouldn’t move in lame duck. “They can protest, they can be out here all they want,” Sweeney said. “This is going to get done before we leave here.”

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