State Senate President Steve Sweeney says it's time for the Legislature to have more say in the handling of the public health emergency, suggesting that Gov. Phil Murphy may have issued more than enough executive orders.

The comments from the top Democrat were a far less inflammatory version of the criticism that Republicans have been leveling at the governor for months.

"There's two approaches to getting something done. One is you can hit someone over the head. Two is you can talk to them. They're trying to hit him over the head. I just think it's time to have the dialogue with the governor," Sweeney told New Jersey 101.5 on Friday. "We prefer to have a mutual agreement, a mutual solution."

Since the start of the pandemic, Murphy has used his office's constitutional power to issue over 200 executive orders that have touched nearly every facet of life, from ordering residents to stay home to determining when businesses can open and to mandating the use of face coverings.

"I think the governor's done a very good job of managing the pandemic. It's a no-win situation. No matter what decision you make you're not going to make anyone happy.  It's now time to start partnering with the administration, with the governor on legislative actions," Sweeney said.

The Senate president said Democrats and Republicans want the executive orders to end.

"We feel its 13 months now, plenty of time has gone by. We're not looking to interfere with the way the governor's managing the infrastructure, getting vaccines — and there's a lot of need still for executive orders. We're happy to partner and work with him," Sweeney said.

Republicans have sponsored legislation that would put a limit on executive orders issued by Murphy and would require legislative approval to be extended but Democrats have prevented the proposed laws from moving out of committee.

Sen. Mike Testa, R-Cumberland, agrees that it's time to get the governor to stop governing by executive action with little legislative input.

"We've been under what I believe to be tyrannical executive rule for over a year now and it's time we put a stop gap on the governor's unfettered executive powers," Testa told New Jersey 101.5.

Testa said his bill does not stop a governor from issuing executive orders but gives the Legislature a say.

"Whether there's a Democratic governor or a Republican governor, I would not want to give them this much power that they can essentially take away the co-equal, separate but equal branch of government, leaving the Legislature out of the equation for over a year," Testa said.

The New Jersey Globe was first to report on Sweeney's comments.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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