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Question 1

Maine Ballot Measure - measure

Election: March 3, 2020 (Primary)

Outcome: Failed


Health and Health Care


This referendum question asks whether voters want to reject the new law, enacted by the Legislature as Chapter 154 of the Public Laws of 2019, that would eliminate the ability to claim a religious or philosophical objection as the basis for avoiding the requirement for certain categories of people to be immunized against certain communicable diseases.

The following categories of individuals are required by law to be immunized against communicable diseases:
1) students who attend public or private elementary and secondary schools;
2) students who attend any post-secondary school in Maine, including colleges, universities, community colleges, and schools for the health professions;
3) employees of nursery schools (but not day care facilities); and
4) employees of designated health care facilities, which are defined to include any hospitals, nursing facilities, residential care facilities, multi-level health care facilities, intermediate care facilities for persons with intellectual disabilities, and home health agencies.

The specific diseases for which immunization or proof of immunity is required are listed in rules adopted jointly by the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services. The diseases include: diphtheria, chickenpox, measles, mumps, pertussis, poliomyelitis, rubella, meningococcal meningitis and tetanus.

Individuals are medically exempt from the immunization requirement if they submit a written statement from a physician indicating that immunization against one or more of these diseases may be medically inadvisable for that individual. The medical exemption would remain in the law regardless of the vote on this referendum. However, Chapter 154 expands the list of medical professionals who can issue the written statement to include a nurse practitioner or physician assistant, as well as a licensed physician.

Before the enactment of Chapter 154, Maine law also allowed exemptions from the immunization requirement for students (or the parents of students under the age of 18) who held "a sincere religious belief ... contrary to the immunization requirement," or were opposed to immunization "for philosophical reasons." The immunization requirement for nursery school staff members could be waived "for a person who objects on the grounds of sincerely held religious or philosophical belief." An employee of a health care facility could be exempt based on a written statement of "a sincere religious or philosophical belief that is contrary to the immunization requirement." Chapter 154 repeals these religious and philosophical exemptions, leaving only the medical exemption.

The people's veto referendum seeks to retain the philosophical and religious exemptions that were in the law but were repealed by the Legislature by the enactment of Chapter 154.If it is not vetoed, Chapter 154 will take effect on September 21, 2021. Students who are covered by an individualized education plan on that date and who obtained a philosophical or religious exemption before that date, may continue to attend school based on that exemption as long as they have consulted with a licensed medical provider (physician, nurse practitioner or physician assistant) regarding the risks and benefits associated with that choice.

A "YES" vote rejects the new law and keeps the religious and philosophical exemptions to immunization requirements.

A "NO" vote approves the new law, which removes religious and philosophical exemptions to immunization requirements.

Measure Text

Do you want to reject the new law that removes religious and philosophical exemptions to requiring immunization against certain communicable diseases for students to attend schools and colleges and for employees of nursery schools and health care facilities?

Yes ( ) No ( )


Official Summary