TRENTON – Some Republican lawmakers ignored and walked past state troopers who were denying them access to the Assembly floor Thursday because they hadn’t complied with a new vaccine-or-test rule for access to the Statehouse.

“They’re not going to physically restrain us,” said Assemblyman Brian Bergen, R-Morris. “We can walk right past them.”

“Oh, it’s changed,” said Assemblyman Erik Peterson, R-Hunterdon, the most vocal in a group of lawmakers complaining about the policy and pressing troopers to explain who ordered it.

It took until nearly three hours after the 15-minute standoff between mostly maskless lawmakers and troopers ended quietly but defiantly for the Assembly voting session to begin, at 3:40 p.m. rather than 1 p.m. Majority-party Democrats had been unwilling to report to the floor where the minority Republicans were waiting.

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Assemblywoman Serena DiMaso, R-Monmouth, said via Twitter at 2:35 p.m. that Speaker Craig Coughlin, D-Middlesex, had told Republicans they would be “physically removed and/or carried out” if they didn’t vacate the chamber within two hours. She then followed up to say "security sweep cancelled!"

The Senate voting session did get underway, after a lengthy delay that is fairly typical for the Statehouse. Republicans spoke against a rule enacted Thursday morning that governs access to the chambers and committee rooms, but Democrats blocked their push for a vote to rescind the policy.

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Senate and Assembly Republicans filed a lawsuit Wednesday challenging the vaccine-or-test policy adopted in October and later updated by the State Capitol Joint Management Commission.

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