Does New Jersey’s governor wield too much power during times of crisis?

Gov. Phil Murphy wields almost unlimited power during a time of crisis.

News 12 Staff

May 28, 2020, 3:01 PM

Updated 1,426 days ago

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Over the last few months, Marcus Ippolito has learned more about executive orders than he says he ever wanted to know.
Ippolito owns In the Zone, a baseball and softball training academy. The business had to close due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and Ippolito says that virtual training sessions can only take the business so far.
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“They’re not paying the bills. We take a loss on that every day,” he says.
But the issue is that the facility doesn’t fit into a clear category. It is not part of Parks and Recreation. It is not a gym. Ippolito has reached out to state lawmakers and the media all in the hopes of getting the attention of Gov. Phil Murphy so that he can reopen.
Murphy’s executive orders have locked down the state. They determine what can open and what cannot. Dog grooming businesses are deemed essential, while hair salons are not.
The law allowing New Jersey’s governors to issue executive orders is broad. It says that Murphy can decide, “the conduct of the civilian population during the threat of and imminence of danger or any emergency.”
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But this could mean “almost anything,” according to Rutgers Law School Professor Ronald Chen. Chen says that Murphy is testing the limits of his power – power given to him by state lawmakers.
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“Now, of course, the Legislature can revisit that,” says Chen.
Murphy says that his decisions have been driven by science and data. The orders are written toe carefully reflect that.
“The Legislature and governor get a lot of leeway from courts in deciding what the science indicates,” says Chen.
But the science surrounding COVID-19 is changing and data can be confusing. For weeks, the Murphy administration was including patient deaths in hospital discharges.
Executive order power is designed to be temporary, but no one knows when the pandemic will end. Would a potential second wave of the virus mean executive orders going into next year?
For business owners like Ippolito, that would be too late.
“We cannot wait for an approval on a gym, for approval to have six or eight people in 12,000 square feet,” he says.
Ippolito says that he can safely open now, but does not want to defy the executive orders to reopen.
Other business owners have been defiant and reopened and have been cited by law enforcement.


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