Republicans in the New Jersey State Senate plan to investigate the Murphy Administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, alleging its response to the public health crisis was “flawed.”
Their hearings, after repeated attempts to have a bipartisan investigation were rebuffed by their Democratic colleagues, will be focused on deaths in nursing, veteran, and long-term care (LTC) facilities; unemployment failures; and the impact on small business across the state. The first scheduled public meeting is set for March 5.
The independent investigation will be led by State Sens. Joe Pennacchio (R-26), Kristin Corrado (R-40), Declan O’Scanlon (R-13), and Michael Testa (R-1), according to appointments made by Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean (R-21).
Dems Block Investigation
“While the Senate Democratic Majority has blocked our efforts to form a select committee to investigate these failures using the full oversight powers of the Legislature, we will move forward with independent hearings to provide people the opportunity to tell their stories and share their concerns about the state’s failed response to COVID-19,” said Kean.
Pennacchio and Corrado were tapped to focus on the state’s nursing homes, LTC facilities, and veterans homes. Nearly, 8,000 residents at these facilities and associated staff lost their lives to COVID-19.
“It’s even more heartbreaking to know that this tragedy is still being written,” said Corrado. “Nobody seems to be listening to the family members of current residents who continue to raise concerns that their loved ones are still at risk.”
Meanwhile, O’Scanlon will focus on executive orders that have hurt the state’s small businesses, and Testa will zero in on issues with the state’s unemployment system and motor vehicle commission.
“We’re going to shine some light on these ongoing failures of the Murphy Administration to inform our efforts to develop effective solutions,” said Testa.
GOP lawmakers have attempted to investigate these issues for months, with Pennacchio first calling for a select committee May 11, 2020. Under a resolution submitted three days later, he argued a bipartisan committee would be able to investigate the issues at hand.
Additionally, the Senate GOP sent six letters to Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) between May 2020 and January 2021, with the Senate Majority choosing to table on three occasions Pennachio’s efforts to bring the resolution up for a vote.
“We’ve tried to convince Senate Democrats that the Legislature has a responsibility to investigate the Executive branch,” said Pennacchio.
“Senate Republicans believe we have an obligation to understand what went wrong with the Governor’s COVID response to prevent his mistakes from being repeated,” he concluded.