State Police change rules to enforce NJ statehouse vax mandate
The battle over a vaccine mandate at New Jersey's statehouse is not over.
An email was sent to all lawmakers on Sunday informing them that the New Jersey State Police will now screen those arriving at five different entry points to the statehouse complex. Anyone who cannot produce proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test will be turned away.
Statehouse Building Manager Steven Pietrzak, who is an employee of the New Jersey Treasury Department, says the directive is per the New Jersey State Police. The state police oversee security at the statehouse.
The email stresses that employees who had been previously "vetted through their HR office," will still need to show a vaccine card or negative COVID test.
The changes come after several Republican members of the Assembly defied the vaccine mandate last week, and took their seats in the Assembly chamber. Troopers first tried to block them, but ultimately allowed the members to walk right by them.
Democratic State Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin was outraged, and according to one GOP lawmaker, demanded the state police drag the legislators from the chamber.
Legal opinions determined the State Police had no authority under the state constitution to physically restrain sitting lawmakers or place them under arrest for defying the mandate.
Coughlin then criticized the State Police for “a colossal failure in security here at the State House."
Republicans are challenging the original mandate in court. A judge is allowing their lawsuit to proceed, and arguments have been scheduled for Dec. 13.
Democratic legislative leaders announced this week's voting session will not be conducted in person, seemingly to avoid another Republican confrontation, and will instead be conducted remotely.