Dems Punt on Bill to Curb Murphy’s COVID-19 Powers, Again
A bill that would place 14-day limits on Gov. Phil Murphy’s executive orders was tabled for a second time by Senate Democrats on Thursday.
Under the bill, S-2482, which was sponsored by the entire state Senate Republican delegation, an executive order related to a state of emergency would automatically expire unless the legislature gave its approval. If approval was not sought or granted Murphy could not reissue the same or similar order.
"That's important because he hasn't shared any real information with legislators to justify his orders that have impacted the lives and livelihoods of every New Jerseyan," New Jersey Senate Republicans wrote on their Facebook page.
During a committee hearing, one of the bill's primary sponsors, state Sen. Mike Doherty, said no one knows the needs of their constituents better than legislators, and during the pandemic it was "disappointing to see that one man, the governor, has essentially taken over all three branches of government."
Murphy declared New Jersey's first public health emergency in March, and has extended the declaration several times since. Under New Jersey law, that gives him the sweeping powers he first used to shut down most public-facing businesses, and later restrict activities via capacity limits or curfews on hours of operation. The same powers have allowed him to put in place limits on the sizes of gatherings indoors and outdoors, including at private homes.
Doherty attempted to bring the bill up for a vote without a committee hearing, but Democrats approved a motion by Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg to table it. By rule, there isn’t debate on a motion to table though in this case state Sen. Richard Codey broke the rules to defend Murphy.
"When a blizzard or some catastrophic thing happens the governor is in charge as well they should be and they should be regardless of party," Codey said. Codey previous served as governor briefly in 2002 following Christine Todd Whitman nomination to head the EPA, and then again from 2004 to 2006 after the resignation of Jim McGreevey.
Doherty wrote later on his Facebook page. "Why wouldn't they want to be consulted and have a say? It's unbelievable. It's shocking that Senate Democrats remain unwilling to provide any level of oversight to Governor Murphy's overbearing executive orders that have been issued since March."
Murphy has issued around 100 executive orders related to the pandemic since February when the first one created a coronavirus task force.
If approved and signed the bill would take effect immediately. An executive order issued by a governor under the Civil Defense and Disaster Control Act currently has no expiration and requires no other approval or input from the legislature or anyone else for that matter.
Michael Symons contributed to this report