State Republicans try to block Murphy’s request to extend emergency powers
Republican lawmakers are trying to block Gov. Phil Murphy’s request for 90 more days of mandating masks in schools, among other COVID-19-related executive orders.
Murphy asked the Legislature to extend his emergency powers as cases of the virus surge in New Jersey. Those powers are scheduled to expire in a week.
“That’s what people sent us to the State House for, to have the debate, to have the discussion, to work out, to really bring the issue to light,” says Republican state Assemblywoman Serena DiMaso.
DiMaso says that she is not in support of extending Murphy’s emergency powers.
“I’m a ‘no.’ I’m not a ‘hell no,’ because I understand that there are some things that maybe we should do,” she says.
DiMaso has been one of the most vocal opponents of the governor’s executive moves.
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“We need to look more at these policies instead of less. We shouldn’t just blanket ‘Here’s 90 days to do what you want.’”
By far the most contentious part of Murphy’s proposal is extending the in-school mask mandate through almost the middle of April.
“It’s just not healthy for them to be in a mask – mentally and physically – all day long,” DiMaso says. “Kids to me, if they get [COVID-19], they don’t get it as badly as any adult.”
But DiMaso says that she won’t downplay the Omicron variant and the surge of COVID-19 in New Jersey.
“I think a lot of people have it but a really big part of me believes this is now nature's vaccine. We're passing it along. It's like a cold, everyone's getting a bad cold. And hopefully, it'll give everyone the antibodies that they need,” she says.
State health officials reported 25,277 new positive PCR tests on Tuesday. There are currently 5,155 COVID-19 patients in New Jersey hospitals. Officials also reported 79 new COVID-19 related deaths.
Murphy has said that the Omicron wave may drop off soon. But for now, the amount of new cases and hospitalizations makes his moves necessary.
With both houses of the Legislature controlled by Democrats, it is likely that the extension will be approved. But Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin’s office said that the Legislature’s next steps are still to be determined.
The extension is allowed under the legislation that ended the state's public health emergency. The governor signed that legislation last June.