Democrats put hold on proposal to limit Murphy’s emergency powers
TRENTON — For the second time since May, state lawmakers voted to table a proposed law that would limit a governor's emergency powers.
Under the state's Civil Defense and Disaster Control Act, a sitting governor can issue executive orders as he or she sees fit. Gov. Phil Murphy has issued nearly 100 such orders since February related to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Republican-sponsored bill A4147 would limit certain emergency orders issued by a governor to 14 days unless subsequently approved by the Legislature. Currently orders can remain in effect for an unlimited amount of time.
The bill was tabled by a voice vote in May and tabled again Monday by in a vote along party lines, 47-27.
"This is a bipartisan issue. We all realize that this should never happen again. But I think the Democrats' hesitation is that they don't want to interfere with their Democratic governor right now," Assemblyman Brian Bergen, R-Morris, the prime sponsor of the legislation, said Wednesday.
Bergen said state Senate President Steve Sweeney told him he'd be willing to put the bill up for a vote once it passed the Assembly.
"And you know, Senator Sweeney's not going to offer to put something up if he doesn't think he can get it passed," Bergen said.
Bergen said that there are situations where decisions need to be made quickly but the Legislature still gets a say.
"He can do what he needs to do in a situation that's governed by the executive orders powers. He can still do that with this bill. But after he does it, the Legislature still needs to convene to extend it," Bergen said.
"I think we can all uniformly agree that it shouldn't just be an endless time period. And right now, that's what it is. He has no incentive to come to the Legislature to seek our advice and consent," Bergen said.
Bergen said that the constituents he hears from say they do not want to be ruled by a single person making unilateral decisions.
"Most people feel there are a lot of things the governor does that are warranted. But they also feel there are other things the governor does that are just ancillary to the problem or aren't well thought out or could be done better," Bergen said. "It sends a really, really dangerous precedent for our future if we allow the governor to go unchecked."
The bill can be brought back for a vote again, according to Bergen. by going through the committee process again or being taken straight to floor for a vote if Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin will allow it.