TOMS RIVER, NJ – At the height of the covid-19 pandemic, New Jersey Assemblymen Greg McGuckin and John Catalano along with State Senator James Holzapfel, of Ocean County introduced a bill to the New Jersey legislature that sought to further criminalize and penalize violations of executive orders issued by Governor Phil Murphy. Think about it for a minute. If McGuckin’s bill was approved by the state Democrats in Trenton, you could have been fined $15,000 for having too many people at Thursday’s Thanksgiving dinner.
Eventually, Phil Murphy eased many of his draconian restrictions supported by McGuckin and Catalano’s $15,000 penalty bill and as spring ended, the bill was pulled.
“There have been a number of public gatherings since the Governor has issued the stay at home order, and we feel violators should face significant consequences for failure to comply,” stated Senator Holzapfel. “During this public health crisis, the executive order mandating social distancing should not be taken lightly. Gatherings during this pandemic put an unnecessary strain on an already fragile healthcare system, create risk for responding law enforcement officers, and threaten the lives of participants.”
Under their proposed law, a monetary penalty of $10,000 to $15,000 for any person who willfully or knowingly hosts gatherings in violation of any provision of the “Emergency Health Powers Act.” Gatherings of all kinds including weddings, parties, and social events would be imposed.
“There must be a stronger penalty for violating the social distancing orders during this outbreak,” said Assemblyman McGuckin. “The strong financial penalties that would be imposed by our legislation should discourage people from hosting gatherings in violation of the prohibition during this crisis.”
“To combat the spread of this disease, we must adhere to the Governor’s orders to stay at home and distance ourselves from our friends and family,” added Assemblyman Catalano. “We know that socially distancing is hard, but it’s critically necessary to prevent the uncontrolled spread of the coronavirus in a way that would overwhelm our hospitals and result in the unnecessary loss of life. We hope that a substantial fine will make individuals think twice if they are considering to host a party or have friends over.”
Luckily, the virus began to subside and McGuckin pulled his bill after pressure from Shore News Network and his constituents, but now as New Jersey enters the second wave and a whole new set of absurd draconian rules. Murphy has closed bars, put a curfew on indoor dining and most recently shut down Thanksgiving celebrations. Murphy, many feel, is now poised to bring the entire state of New Jersey back into lockdown, but this time, residents and business owners are more defiant than ever after suffering nearly a full year from an extended lockdown.
When Murphy decides to shut it all down again, we are left with one very serious question. Will Holzapfel, McGuckin and Catalano reintroduce their bill that will impose a crippling financial penalty of those who dare challenge Murphy and the state? Imagine being fined $15,000 because you have 10 people over on Christmas, but your long lost Uncle Buck shows up from Chicago with gifts. You can sneak him in the back door, but if McGuckin has his way, that could cost you $15,000 for violating Murphy’s 10 person cap.
It’s uncertain which way the trio will land as all three are up for re-election. They could opt to continue their support for the Murphy administration and reintroduce their $15,000 penalty bill or, knowing they are in Ocean County, they might this time play to the large concentration of Republicans and hope everyone forgets their initial dastardly plan to fine every day shore residents with fines that equal to large portions of their annual salary during a pandemic.
We’ll have to wait and see which way the wind blows this winter.