NJ Legislature passes bill that ends more than 100 of Gov. Murphy's orders, keeps 14 in place
Over a deafening crowd just outside its windows, the Public Health Emergency bill cleared the state Legislature with a 21-16 Senate vote on Thursday.
The bill will end more than 100 of Gov. Phil Murphy's pandemic executive orders in 30 days, but will keep 14 orders in place through Jan. 1. It also allows Gov. Murphy to ask for a 90-day extension of his powers in January. Senate President Steve Sweeney's office says that extension is meant to be one time only.
The governor said he will sign the bill into law Friday, followed by the order terminating the state's COVID-19 public health emergency after 15 months.
Democratic leaders negotiated the bill with the governor's office and renegotiated after an earlier vote on the bill was scuttled May 20.
"Though it doesn't say everything I want it to say, it is the beginning of the ending of the emergency orders," said Sen. Loretta Weinberg.
Democrats say the bill responsibly keeps powers in place for the governor, including eviction and shutoff moratorium, COVID restrictions at day camps, and the ability to reimpose a mask mandate.
Before the vote, opponents of the emergency bill and mandatory masking for children rallied outside the Statehouse.
"When I first saw kids with a mask when this first started, people wearing masks, I was like, 'That's child abuse,'" said Chris Nowak of the John Birch Society.
Gov. Murphy, Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig J. Coughlin issued a joint statement upon the passage of the measure, which reads:
“New Jerseyans have proven their resilience over the past 15 months as our state has fought the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, we take a substantial step toward restoring normalcy to our state and to the lives of those who call New Jersey home.
“Ending New Jersey’s COVID-19 Public Health Emergency is one of the most significant steps we have taken in our recovery efforts to date. With our state’s public health metrics continuing to trend decisively in the right direction, we are confident that now is the right time to take this action, particularly as the final limits on gatherings are lifted tomorrow. With passage of this bill today and its signing tomorrow, followed by the Governor's signing of an executive order terminating the Public Health Emergency, we will move closer to normal than at any time since March 2020.
“While we celebrate this milestone in our fight against COVID-19, we also acknowledge that the fight against this virus is not over. This legislation ensures that the Administration has the tools and flexibility necessary to continue vaccination and testing efforts, ensure protections for vulnerable populations, and oversee and coordinate the health care system to address this ongoing threat.
“By working together, we are facing the challenges ahead and meeting the needs of the over nine million residents who have bravely battled the worst pandemic in a century together.”