Has Gov. Phil Murphy gone too far during the pandemic, instituting unreasonable mandates and regulations without the input of other New Jersey lawmakers?

A New Jersey lawmaker is pushing a plan to limit Gov. Phil Murphy’s emergency powers, and give the legislature more oversight about COVID-related decisions made by the executive branch.

Setting limits

Sen. Declan O’Scanlon, R-Monmouth, has introduced a measure, S-1200, that would limit the duration of a state of emergency to 60 days unless an extension is authorized by the Legislature. It also would limit a public health emergency declaration to a total of 60 days unless the Legislature approves an extension.

Better balance

He said the governor has too much unilateral power and a reconfiguration is needed.

“This bill, in a very deliberative and reasonable way, brings balance back to the co-equal branches of government and how they ought to function, in a way that will make New Jersey government function better,” said O’Scanlon.

He said legislatures in other states have stepped in and taken this kind of action to correct their power imbalances and “in New Jersey there is way too much power held by one person.”

Bad consequences

O’Scanlon said New Jersey has dragged its feet during the pandemic when it came to “perfectly logical steps like reopening."

"New Jersey was the very last state in many categories to move," he said. "We saw in other states that they were way ahead of us.”

Closed sign hanging in business window
Susan Vineyard

He said the result was that the state sacrificed businesses and jobs unnecessarily.

He pointed out we continue to have “ridiculous policies in our schools that are still being followed, and that’s causing learning loss and damaging children’s education.”

O’Scanlon added he expects overwhelming bipartisan support for the measure.

“Any legislator who opposes this bill is essentially saying to their constituents I don’t believe I need to do my job,” he said.

The bill would give also the Legislature the authority to terminate both types of emergency declarations through a two-thirds vote and would prohibit the governor from repeating a defeated emergency declaration except in limited circumstances.

The state of emergency declaration has been in effect since March 9, 2020, and a new public health emergency was declared earlier in January after the Legislature declined to advance a resolution extending various emergency powers that had been set to expire.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com.

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