State Police Change Rules to Enforce NJ State House Vaccine Mandate
The battle over a vaccine mandate at New Jersey's State House is not over.
An email was sent to all lawmakers on Sunday informing them that the State Police will now screen those arriving at the entrance to the State House garage and anyone who cannot produce proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test will be turned away.
The email stresses a "state ID alone will not suffice" to gain access.
State House 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 State House.
All personnel accessing the State House garage via both entrances tomorrow will be required to show ID and proof of vaccination. State ID alone will not suffice. Anyone not providing proper documentation will not be allowed to enter the garage or the Complex - email from State House Building Manager Steven Pietrzak
In addition to the new garage screenings, the memo goes on to say "foot traffic" will be directed to the entrance of the State House Annex and will be subject to the same vaccination and testing screenings.
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 a 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."
Despite the change in screening procedures from the State Police, it remains unclear what happens if a lawmaker attempts to enter the garage or the Annex and refuses to provide either proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test.
Republicans are challenging the original mandate in court. A judge is allowing their lawsuit to proceed, and arguments have been scheduled for December 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.