With the pandemic already lasting a year, many of New Jersey’s GOP lawmakers are working to limit the power of Gov. Phil Murphy by curtailing his use of executive orders.
Republicans in both the Senate and Assembly recently pushed to move forward legislation that would put a 14-day cap on any rule issued by Murphy unless it receives legislative approval.
The legislation would affect orders issued under the Civil Defense and Disaster Control Act—a power Republicans believe Murphy has abused by extending the original state of emergency 13 times and public health emergency orders issued since March 9, 2020.
“This is not what the American people think happens,” said Assemblyman Brian Bergen (R-25). “They think we bring bills up. We discuss them. We debate them. And we make them the best they could possibly be and then we vote on them. And they are either made into law or not.”
“What they don’t know is sometimes bills like this never get the opportunity to be heard.”
Oroho Tries to Stem Murphy’s Power
Assemblyman Bergen wasn’t the only GOP lawmaker trying to limit Murphy’s use of the Emergency Health Powers Act during the pandemic. State Sen. Steve Oroho (R-24) introduced a measure in Trenton’s upper chamber to stem the executive orders.
“It is disingenuous of the governor to reason that his emergency powers are still required more than a year after the onset of the coronavirus,” Oroho said. “The State Legislature, as envisioned in our State Constitution, should be playing a more vital and direct role in determining the state’s pandemic response.”
Oroho lamented the Democratic majority’s inaction on the measures, with Bergen noting similar efforts to limit Murphy’s power had failed on both June 18 and Nov. 16, 2020.
“Emergency declarations were never intended for long-term use,” said Oroho. “As elected officials, our mutual objective is to provide for the public’s general welfare so the State Legislature should be having more of a say on issues that affect our constituents’ lives.”
Support from the Senate President
Republican lawmakers found an unusual ally in their effort: Senate President Steven Sweeney, according to the New Jersey Globe.
While not as strident as the Republicans speaking on the issue, Sweeney (D-3) noted the governor’s work was good thus far, but the state needed to return to a more normal sense of work.
“I think the governor’s done a very good job of managing the situation based on what we know,” he said following March 25’s voting session. “But I think a lot of us in the legislature would like to not continue these executive actions and start moving forward back to where we’re participating and partnering even further than we are.”