Republicans in the state house have gained the support of at least one prominent Senate Democrat in their ongoing bid to rein in Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy’s use of pandemic-related emergency powers.
State Sen. Declan O’Scanlon (R-13) announced Jan. 31 that his legislation (S 1200) to limit the New Jersey governor’s emergency powers—a bill that until now only had Republican sponsors—gained a formidable Democratic backer.
O’Scanlon tweeted: “Happy to announce my friend Vin Gopal has agreed to be my co-prime sponsor on this legislation. Lots of other interest. We need to get this done!”
State Sen. Gopal (D-11), who like O’Scanlon represents Monmouth County, serves on the state Senate Democrats’ leadership team where he is the Democratic majority conference leader.
‘Intrusive Government Mandates’
“Since the start of the pandemic, New Jerseyans have been shocked and outraged by extremely intrusive government mandates that have been issued under the emergency powers assumed by the governor and the executive branch,” O’Scanlon said in a statement.
“It’s unfathomable to many people that our laws would allow a single person to wield such an astonishing amount of authority with virtually no oversight,” the Republican lawmaker said. “Our new legislation is based on our experience over the last two years and addresses the serious concerns expressed by both legislators and the constituents we represent. I’ve been in discussions with some of my Democrat colleagues and am proud to announce the bill will have bipartisan sponsorship.”
Senate Republican Leader Steve Oroho (R-24), a cosponsor of O’Scanlon’s bill, echoed his colleagues words in his own Jan. 31 statement.
No Input From Legislature
Oroho was joined by 24th Legislative District Assemblymen Hal Wirths and Parker Space in objecting to Murphy’s issuing of executive orders to reinstate school mask mandates and vaccine mandates for health care workers without a testing option. The three Republican lawmakers complained that Murphy made these decisions “without input from the Legislature or the public.”
Wirths said Murphy’s school mask mandates ignored the views of parents and students and the role of local officials. “Local districts are in the best position to make these decisions and they should be allowed to do their job,” Wirths said.
Additional sponsors of O’Scanlon’s bill include North Jersey Sens. Anthony Bucco (R-25), Kristin Corrado (R-40), and Joseph Pennacchio (R-26).
Bill Limits State of Emergency Duration
O’Scanlon said that under current New Jersey law, a State of Emergency can remain in effect until terminated by the governor, and a public health emergency can be declared for 30 days with subsequent 30-day extensions issued at the governor’s sole discretion.
O’Scanlon’s new bill limits the duration of a state of emergency to 60 days unless the legislature extends it. Additionally, the bill limits a public health emergency declaration to a total of 60 days—the initial 30-day duration and one 30-day renewal by the governor—unless the legislature authorizes an extension.
Moreover, the legislation would provide the state legislature with explicit authority “to terminate both types of emergency declarations through a two-thirds vote of the Legislature.”
O’Scanlon: Bill Similar to Other States’ Policies
“This bill does absolutely nothing controversial. It simply clearly enumerates what was the original intent of our state constitution. It also is very similar to polices in many other states,” O’Scanlon said.
“In fact, every other state in the nation currently provides more legislative oversight than does New Jersey. Our system is clearly an outlier. The framers of our state and federal constitutions knew that a system of checks and balances in government is necessary to ensure that people have a say in the policies that impact their lives through their elected representatives,” added O’Scanlon.
This is not the first time in recent weeks that a prominent State Senate Democrat has signaled support for reining in Murphy’s use of emergency powers.
Not the First Democrat
Outgoing Senate president Steve Sweeney (D-3)—in one of his last acts before leaving the Senate after losing re-election—declined to bring to the chamber floor a resolution that would have extended by 45 days Murphy’s COVID-19-related emergency powers.
After Murphy announced publicly on Jan. 10 that he would keep the state’s school mask mandate in place, Sweeney and Republican senators said they were not informed of the governor’s decision to keep the mandate.
Sweeney the same day called the governor’s decision to make the mask mandate announcement “just disrespectful. We are an equal branch of government…I wasn’t consulted. It’s just aggravating.”
O’Scanlon said that the current State of Emergency declaration has been in effect since March 9, 2020. Murphy declared a new public health emergency after Sweeney and the rest of the legislature declined to advance a resolution extending Murphy’s expiring emergency powers.
New Senate President Scutari Weighs In
Newly sworn-in state Senate President Nicholas Scutari (D-22) told News12 New Jersey last weekend that while the state legislature granted broad powers to New Jersey’s governor in the first place, state lawmakers have the authority to curtail the governor’s emergency powers.
Scutari said there had been “active discussions” among Republicans and Democrats in both the Senate and Assembly about the breadth of emergency powers the governor should have.
“The Legislature does need to be at the table because we’re the people’s representatives,” Scutari said.
Murphy defended his actions at a Jan. 24 press briefing when he was asked if he would extend the public health emergency for an additional 30 days. “We had no choice,” Murphy said. “I think that day, we had literally 30,000 positive cases … This is something we want to do as best we can, I might add, in concert with the legislative leadership.
“I want to get to a better place as much as anybody, so we’re going to continually try to meet the moment. One of the benefits of a 30-day window is you don’t have to make decisions with, say, a year-long tail to it. It allows you to bite this off as it goes forward.”
The cumulative number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New Jersey as of Feb. 3 was 1,835,533 with 3,535 total new PCR cases. There were 714 probable cases, bringing the cumulative total of antigen tests to 287,674. The total number of individual cases for the state is 2,123,207.
As for those that have passed, the state reported 111 confirmed deaths, bringing that total to 28,850. The state listed probable deaths at 2,919, bringing the overall total to 31,769. State officials noted 43 deaths occurred in the last 24 hours of reporting that have not yet been lab confirmed.
For North Jersey counties on Feb. 3, Bergen had a total of 280 new confirmed cases and 102 new probable cases, Essex 307 new cases and 31 new probable case, Hudson 204 new cases and 34 new probable cases, Morris 205 new confirmed cases and 53 new probable cases, Passaic 148 new cases and 33 new probable cases, Sussex 66 new cases and 14 new probable cases, and Warren 37 new cases and 11 new probable cases.
Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 3,163, followed by Bergen at 3,004, Hudson with 2,419, Passaic at 2,044, Morris at 1,180, Sussex at 356, and Warren County at 290.
In regards to probable deaths reported Jan. 31, Bergen has 331, Essex has 309, Morris has 280, Hudson has 224, Passaic has 203, Sussex has 80 and Warren has 27.
As for the rate of transmission reported Feb. 3, it remained at 0.55 for a fourth day in a row. The daily rate of infections from those tested Jan. 29 was 12.1%; by region, the rate was 10.1% in the North, 12.0% in the Central region and 17.5% in the South.
The state’s dashboard had a count of 2,310 patients hospitalized as 68 of the 71 hospitals in the Garden State filed reports Feb. 3. By region, there were 878 in the North, 760 in the Central and 672 in the South. Of those hospitalized, 351 are in intensive care units and 284 on ventilators. A total of 385 patients were discharged in the last 24 hour reporting period.
Officials have continually cited transmission rate, hospitalizations, intensive care units, ventilators and positivity rate as health data they rely on to track how the coronavirus is being contained in New Jersey, guiding them in determining when restrictions have to be tightened or lifted.
Long-term Care Facilities
Health officials noted 562 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 26,290 of the cases, broken down between 12,047 residents and 14,243 staff.
Cumulatively, 2,355 long-term care facilities have reported an outbreak infecting 45,911 residents and 37,282 staff, for a total of 83,193.
The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 9,063 on Feb. 3. The facilities are reporting to the state 8,435 residents deaths and 148 staff deaths.
The number of COVID-19 vaccines administered in New Jersey totaled 13,492,108 in-state, plus an additional 549,385 administered out-of-state for a grand total of 14,041,493 as of Feb. 3.
Of those who have received the vaccine, 6,413,286 received their second dose or the one jab Johnson & Johnson dose in state and another 220,178 out of state, bringing those fully vaccinated to 6,633,464. A total of 76% of those eligible are fully vaccinated in New Jersey and 90% have received at least one dose.
State officials reported boosters and third shots of 1,505,975 for Pfizer and 1,248,098 for Moderna. A total of 59,710 New Jerseyans have received their Johnson & Johnson booster shot. Overall, 2,813,783 have received a booster or third shot. Overall, 51% of those eligible have received their booster.
In North Jersey, Bergen County has 704,751 residents fully vaccinated, Essex 569,820, Hudson 510,872, Morris 378,097, Passaic 346,160, Sussex 90,574, and Warren 58,832.
According to the state dashboard with 64.3% of all New Jersey schools reporting, new student cases totaled 10,938 and new staff cases 2,586 in the last week as of Jan. 23. Cumulatively, 117,884 cases have been reported— 92,102 students and 25,782 staffers.
In regards to outbreaks related to in-school transmissions as of Jan. 26, the state has tracked 465 school outbreaks and 3,138 cases linked to those outbreaks since the 2021/2022 school year starting Aug. 7, up 33 outbreaks and 455 cases from the week previous.
Outbreaks are defined as three or more laboratory confirmed COVID-19 cases among students or staff with onsets within a 14 day period, linked within the school setting, do not share a household, and were not identified as close contacts of each other in another setting during standard case investigation or contact tracing.
For North Jersey in the new report, Bergen County has 54 confirmed outbreaks with 296 cases, Morris County has 36 confirmed outbreaks with 220 cases, Essex County has 28 confirmed outbreaks with 208 cases, Sussex has 33 confirmed outbreaks with 179 cases, Passaic County has 21 confirmed outbreaks with 178 cases, Hudson County has 18 confirmed outbreaks with 89 cases and Warren County has two confirmed outbreaks with 15 cases.
Murphy cost the Dems 7 seats, including Norcross’ bagman – Sen. Sweeney; payback time for the rat from Goldman Sachs.
It would be one thing if the pandemic mitigation measures that Murphy instituted under the executive orders were useful or save lives or made any difference at all. But they don’t make any difference. None of the things that the state of New Jersey officially did under the executive orders other than isolating sick people made any difference. It was all waste it was all for nothing. Murphy and he’s hysterical lunatic lockdown advocates ruins two years of our lives and in the process utterly failed to protect vulnerable people. New Jersey has the worst record of deaths in the entire country. And now this Murphy thinks he can get away with forcing children to wear masks indefinitely. It’s a total abuse of power it’s executive overreach it’s tyrannical It was a total useless wasteand it must end right now. Murphy should be impeached and probably serve jail time
What is making a difference in NJ with regard to the mitigation of the spread of COVID and the serious hospitalizations and deaths it causes appears to me to be that our vaccination rate is finally going up. This is coupled with the growing numbers of people who have survived infection by the virus and now have some immunity. As long as we had no vaccination to help protect us I think we needed mandates. Once we had vaccinations that should have allowed a lessening of restrictions and it did, but the resistance to getting vaccinated lead to greater spread and new variants. I don’t think the mandates hurt any one with the possible exception of school age kids with regard to their education. If NJ had people dying in the streets and hospitals shut down from over load I think many of the same critics of mandates would have been screaming that the Democratic governor had done nothing to help his fellow citizens and that he should be impeached for failing to do his sworn Constitutional duty to protect the citizens of NJ..
A DEMOCRAT supporting limits on executive (dictatorial) power??? Be still my heart!
And why does the North Jersey News continue to report Covid statistics as if they have any real value? All of the stats around the so-called pandemic have been manipulated and distorted to fit a political agenda. The CDC has admitted that the vast majority of Covid “deaths” were WITH Covid, not FROM Covid. They also admit that people who died within 14 days of being jabbed were reported as “unvaccinated” deaths, to minimize the optics around vaccine-related deaths. Enough already with your propaganda.