Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, D-Middlesex, postponed action on a bill to end New Jersey’s public health emergency shortly before lawmakers were to consider it.
Republicans have blasted the bill, A-5777, saying it ends the public health emergency in place since March 2020 in name only. The full Assembly was poised to consider the measure on Thursday.
“After speaking with legislative colleagues, advocates and other interested parties I have decided to postpone today’s vote on A-5777 in order to refine it so that it is the fairest and most responsible bill possible,” Coughlin said in a statement.
“I am committed to ending the public health emergency,” Coughlin added. “This is extremely important legislation that we must get right.”
While the bill would have ostensibly ended the emergency, it would have left in place a series of executive orders Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, handed down amid the COVID-19 pandemic. It would have also allowed the governor to keep in place mask and social distancing restrictions.
“Trenton Democrats actually seemed surprised to learn that New Jerseyans oppose their convoluted bill letting Governor Murphy maintain unnecessary mask and social distancing restrictions until 2022,” state Sen. Anthony Bucco, R-Boonton, said in a news release. “If they had paid attention before today, they would have known that people want the public health emergency and all of the overbearing mandates to end immediately.
“Trenton Democrats are clearly feeling the heat, so the public pressure is working,” Bucco added. “For once, they’re not barreling ahead with a bad plan in defiance of public sentiment. That doesn’t happen often. Maybe they’ll really shock us and join Republicans in working to end the public health emergency in full right now.”