HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — The controversial proposal repealing the religious exemption for childhood vaccinations could be up for a vote in the House of Representatives by the end of March. That’s the word from Speaker of the House Rep. Joe Aresimowicz (D-Berlin), but there are strong indications the bill will be changed again.
Rank and file State lawmakers in both the House and Senate were back at the Capitol Wednesday for their first formal session since thousands filled the Legislative Office Building on Monday for the Public Safety Committee vote on the amended bill to repeal the religious exemption for childhood vaccinations.
On their way to the Capitol Wednesday, some lawmakers saw an electronic billboard on the interstate, paid for by one of the groups opposed to the change urging a “no vote on House Bill 5044,” the formal name of the proposal.
House Majority Leader, Rep. Matt Ritter (D-Hartford) told News 8 the issue is causing tempers to flare.
“The temperature is high on this issue, it’s about as high as I’ve seen since maybe the Sandy Hook vote.”– House Majority Leader, Rep. Matt Ritter (D-Hartford)
The Majority Leader has been advocating for repealing the religious exemption for over a year, and his boss, the Speaker of the House, is with him but says the bill – passed by the committee – must now be reviewed by non-partisan legal staff. He says that even after that it still may have to go through another committee adding, “There may be other referrals that are necessary, we’ll talk about that, so it won’t be ready for action for at least a few weeks.”
All the Republicans on the Public Safety Committee voted against the bill on Monday and Republicans in the House appear to be unified in opposition.
House Minority Leader Rep. Themis Klarides (R-Derby) saying, “The process by which this followed – a 22-hour public hearing and a vote only a couple of days later – will tell you that they weren’t listening to the public.”
But it’s not a partisan issue.
Rep. Jack Hennessy (D-Bridgeport) was one of two Democrats on the committee that also voted against the bill and says, “There’s no emergency, there’s no public health emergency. The data that brought this forward was flawed.”
The Public Health Department continues to support its data that shows that religious exemptions have tripled over the past decade and are trending in the wrong direction.
The co-chair of the Public Health Committee, Representative Jonathan Steinberg of Westport, says further amendments or changes to the bill are possible and he intends to consult with committee members on the issue in the coming weeks.