Another attempt to limit Murphy’s pandemic powers in NJ
Republicans in the New Jersey Legislature will try again to limit Gov. Phil Murphy's pandemic powers.
Democratic leadership declined to extend Murphy's extraordinary authority earlier this month through legislation, forcing Murphy to declare a new public health emergency in order to continue his executive orders governing pandemic response. That included his controversial mask mandate.
At the same time, Democrats also rejected a GOP proposal that would have severely limited Murphy's powers by limiting any executive orders to 15 days unless extended by the Legislature.
Sen. Declan O'Scanlon, R-Monmouth, plans to reintroduce a similar measure.
"Many New Jerseyans agree it’s simply too much power for one person to wield," O'Scanlon said in a statement, and referred to the "astonishing amount of power" the governor of New Jersey has when declaring a public health emergency.
New Jersey has one of the most powerful executive branches of government in the U.S. with comparatively few checks and balances when it comes to implementing policy through executive order.
Under current law, a public health emergency can be declared by the governor without legislative approval. The declaration expires in 30 days, but can be renewed in perpetuity by the governor without the consent of lawmakers.
O'Scanlon's bill would still permit emergency declarations, but after expiring in 30 days, they could not be renewed without the approval and consent of the legislature.
If the Legislature does not approve the extension, the governor would be prohibited from issuing another declaration for the same emergency or that has a substantially similar effect.
There is likely to be little bi-partisan support for the measure, but O'Scanlon tried to remain optimistic.
"I've heard my Democrat colleagues in the Legislature and the governor all say in recent days that they want to work together to move New Jersey beyond the pandemic," O'Scanlon said. "They can prove it by passing this bill which will force the executive and legislative branches to share information and negotiate the extension of emergency powers on a case by case basis.”