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Pennacchio: Murphy Declares His Unchecked Emergency Powers Could Last for More Than a Year

Reversal on indoor dining demonstrates need for Senator’s Resolution

Governor Murphy unilaterally ripped the rug out from under thousands of New Jersey eateries preparing to welcome indoor customers this week, and Senator Joe Pennacchio said it is time to rein in his unchecked authority.

Senator Pennacchio said Governor Murphy’s emergency powers must be reined in after his unilateral decision to block restaurants from opening for indoor dining this week. (New Jersey State Archives)

“Murphy’s action this week is a painful blow to those who want to get back to normal, employees desperate to return to work, and small, medium and large enterprises seeing their hopes for survival dim with every passing day,” said Senator Pennacchio.

“The Governor has unbridled power right now, and there’s no end in sight. The Legislature should not be powerless to stop it. This is one more reason it is essential to pass my resolution placing a constitutional amendment on the ballot for November. A vote of the people can stop this governor, and any future governor, from running amok without checks and balances,” said Senator Pennacchio (R-26).

The Senator sponsors SCR-117. If adopted by voters, it would limit the duration of emergency orders and other rules issued by the governor to 14 days. Extending the declarations would require legislative action.

“This should pass as soon as possible. Elected legislators should have a seat at the table, and right now, we don’t,” said Pennacchio. “The separation of powers exists for a reason, and an executive order should never be used as a loophole around it. When power is over-stepped, everyone pays a price.”

Murphy declared a State of Emergency and Public Health Emergency on March 9, when he signed Executive Order 103. It gives him unbridled authority, according to EO 103, “until such time as it is determined by me that an emergency no longer exists.”

“The reality is the longer he keeps this emergency ‘alive,’ the longer he enjoys complete control,” Pennaccho said. “Incredibly, he is telling people the emergency could go on for another year! We have seen the painful ramifications of reckless decisions that cost the lives of 6,500 elderly residents of nursing homes, and the same thing is happening to our economy. Murphy needs to consult with legislators representing residents from every corner of the state.”

Murphy had announced the return of indoor dining at 25 percent capacity on Saturday, but two days later reversed course, indefinitely delaying reopenings so desperately necessary for restaurants and employees.

Pennacchio questions why the Governor’s cancelation includes wedding venues and banquet halls, but casinos will still be open on July 2. Similarly, the Governor had allowed big box stores like Home Depot and Walmart to be open, but refused the same opportunity to small Main Street businesses.

“Restaurants and businesses need to reopen, now,” Pennacchio emphasized. “The Governor encouraged thousands of protesters to assembly, yet restaurants with limited seating, practicing social distancing, are not afforded the same courtesy. New Jersey is one of only four states in the nation that prohibits indoor restaurant service. If that doesn’t change soon, our economy may never recover.

“Determinations affecting the lives and livelihoods of New Jerseyans seem to be made based on gut feelings. The Governor often speaks of ‘the science,’ yet he has never divulged the metrics that go into these capricious directives. Where is the science? We may never know,” Pennacchio said.



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