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Pennacchio/Oroho Seeking to Curtail Governor’s Powers with Constitutional Amendment

Never again should New Jersey be subjected to open-ended executive orders

During times of emergency like the current COVID-19 pandemic, Senator Joe Pennacchio and Senator Steve Oroho have a plan to restore policy-making balance to the state.

Senator Pennacchio and Senator Oroho have introduced a resolution for a state constitutional amendment that would ensure New Jersey would never again be subjected to open-ended executive orders. (New Jersey State Archives)

Governor Phil Murphy, who today announced he was lifting the months-long stay-at-home order, has utilized his pen and executive orders to circumvent the elected Legislature and avoid public scrutiny during his time in office. He plans to sign another executive order raising limits on the size of indoor and outdoor gatherings in the state.

Pennacchio and Oroho this week introduced a resolution (SCR-117) proposing a state constitutional amendment that would rein in gubernatorial powers.

“Murphy’s affinity for unilateral edicts has been on prominent display during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Senator Pennacchio (R-26). “He’s been indiscriminately signing executive orders, acting more like an emperor without any accountability. This resolution would give the power back to the people with a vote on an amendment to the state constitution placing restrictions on executive authority.”

The proposed amendment would provide that certain emergency orders, rules or regulations issued by a governor during a state of emergency will terminate on the 15th day after issuance unless the Legislature approves an extension. This will force the governor to work with the Legislature.

“This will restore the balance of power intended in the New Jersey Constitution and the transparency state residents deserve,” Pennacchio said. “Neither this governor, nor any governor, should be allowed to indefinitely dictate matters of statewide importance independent of the Legislature, a co-equal branch of government elected by the people.”

During his daily briefing today, Murphy announced an increase in the limit for outdoor gatherings to 100 people, with plans to go to 250 later in June, and 500 on July 3.

“The Governor reacted today because the people have had enough,” said Senator Oroho (R-24). “The prolonged situation has been wearing thin on residents and businesses, and more reason is finally taking hold. But it’s clear we need to reform the policy process. This resolution will bring balanced governance in times of crisis, and provide appropriate checks and balances as envisioned in our State Constitution.

“No one person should ever have absolute authority when it involves individuals’ rights as protected in our Constitution. It took months to get the governor to change course. It shouldn’t have to be that way. The Legislature should have a defined role for governing the state jointly in emergency situations.”



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