Showdown Day Arrives Over NJ State House Vaccine Mandate
It remains unclear what will happen as lawmakers arrive for a voting session at the State House in Trenton this morning.
Several Republican members have said they will defy a mandate to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test before entering the building.
The GOP asked a Superior Court judge on Wednesday to block the mandate, but things could get interesting if no ruling is made by the time members start arriving.
The declared COVID-19 public health emergency in the State of New Jersey is now over, and there is no urgent need for protection from a virus that first appeared some two years ago and which has become just another risk present in normal everyday life. - Republican legal brief challenging State House vaccination mandate
A mechanism is in place for lawmakers to vote remotely, but it is unclear how many lawmakers will accept that option.
While State Police Superintendent Col. Patrick Callahan said on Monday he believed troopers had the authority to remove lawmakers who were not in compliance with the vaccination policy, he did not anticipate anyone being led away in handcuffs.
Callahan also said he would consult with the Attorney General's Office if the situation arose. He has offered no update.
Further clouding the issue are memos issued by the non-partisan Office of Legislative Services, which said lawmakers could not be arrested for non-compliance because such an arrest would violate the state Constitution.
However, OLS did say the Democratic leadership could ban them from entering the chamber or from actually entering the State House itself.
If Democratic Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin or Senate President Steve Sweeney were to do that, it's not clear who would enforce such a ban.
Gov. Phil Murphy has accused Republicans of playing politics and said the State House vaccination policy was in the best interest of public health. Those unwilling to prove vaccination status, he said, could get a rapid test at the State House before entering.
How many Republicans plan to defy the policy remains unclear. While all were critical of the mandate, some, like state Sen. Holly Schepisi, R-Bergen, told NJ.com she will be in Trenton to "do her job" and that she is fully vaccinated, and will be voting in person today.
This remains a developing story, check back for updates.