After Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy announced a new round of restrictions aimed at combating a steadily rising rate of COVID-19 infections in New Jersey, Republicans were quick to express displeasure, saying the governor is acting without merit.
As of Dec. 7, the state will reduce the number of people allowed to gather outdoors from 150 to 25 people. The state will also ban indoor youth and school sports from Dec. 5 through Jan. 2, 2021, Murphy announced Nov. 30.
The restrictions come a week after Murphy extended the state’s public health emergency declaration for a ninth time since his initial order on March 9, which grants him the power to issue executive actions.
Rule By Executive Order
Many of Murphy’s shutdown orders during the pandemic—from closing state parks last Spring to limiting restaurant capacity to vote-by-mail protocols—have been issued via executive order, with some codified as law by the along party lines.
Assemblyman Brian Bergen (R-25) accused the governor in a press statement of “ruling by executive order, vetoing legislation that would help people and making unilateral decisions without providing the data or science he references.”
Bergen criticized Democrats for blocking efforts to advance a bill (A-4147/S-2482) that would require the legislature to approve executive orders within 14 days after the governor issues them. Another bill to make data on Murphy’s decisions available passed the Senate unanimously but has not been considered in the Assembly.
“The legislature has resolved itself to being a governmental accessory in New Jersey,” said Bergen, who went on to refer to the Senate and Assembly as “useless.”
Legislature Must Play Role
Meanwhile, District 24 GOP Assemblyman Parker Space, Assemblyman Hal Wirths and State Sen. Steve Oroho blasted Democrats “for blocking attempts to end government by executive orders and restore legislative checks and balances.”
Oroho, a primary sponsor of S-2482, said, “Our constituents elected each member of the legislature to represent their interests in Trenton. This bill would restore that intended power and provide a check on the governor, who continues to make unilateral decisions that impact our everyday lives without input from the legislature.”
“As we approach the holiday season, and the governor announcing new restrictions with the looming threat of another shutdown, it’s critical that the legislature play a more active role and bring a more deliberative approach when considering the impact of further restrictions on our economy and personal freedoms,” Oroho said.
Work To Flatten Curve
Murphy’s newly-announced restrictions come as New Jersey battles a second wave of the outbreak. As of Dec. 2, there are 346,206 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 17,145 virus-related deaths in the Garden State.
The governor denied rumors about an impending statewide shutdown because he believes New Jersey is in a better position compared to last spring “when we had to take drastic actions to save lives.”
According to Murphy, New Jersey now has increased testing capabilities, a stockpile of personal protection equipment and ventilators, more knowledge of the virus itself and a vaccine timeline that includes the state receiving resources in mid-December.
“As we come out of the long Thanksgiving weekend and turn our gaze to the December holidays, we must remember that this virus is not done with us,” said Murphy. “Let’s redouble our efforts and end the year by crushing the curve a second time, so we can look forward to a better 2021.”