Governor Murphy’s pandemic emergency powers to end in June…but there’s a big catch

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TRENTON, NJ – Officially, the pandemic emergency health order renewed continuously by Governor Phil Murphy since March of 2020 will come to an end in June. Unofficially, Governor Phil Murphy will still wield extraordinary powers regarding the COVID-19 pandemic through 2022.

“New Jerseyans have proven their resilience over the past 15 months as our state has fought the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, we take a substantial step toward restoring normalcy to our state and to the lives of those who call New Jersey home,” Governor Murphy said. “Ending New Jersey’s COVID-19 Public Health Emergency is one of the most significant steps we have taken in our recovery efforts to date. With our state’s public health metrics continuing to trend decisively in the right direction, we are confident that now is the right time to take this action, particularly as the final limits on gatherings are lifted tomorrow. With passage of this bill today and its signing tomorrow, followed by the Governor’s signing of an executive order terminating the Public Health Emergency, we will move closer to normal than at any time since March 2020.”

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Large crowds gathered outside the Statehouse to protest the bill, which essentially extends the Governor’s authority by statute until 2022.

In response to the bill approved by state Democrats, New Jersey GOP Senator Declan O’Scanlon introduced a bill that would counter Murphy’s authority, but it’s not expected to pass muster in the Democrat controlled assembly and senate.


Senator Declan O’Scanlon (R-Monmouth) issued a statement following the passage of A-5820, which Democrats claimed would limit Governor Murphy’s public health emergency authority.

Here’s the catch.

“The bill that was passed today might claim to curb the Governor’s powers, but it fails to do so in many key areas,” said O’Scanlon. “OPRA requests pertaining to the pandemic are still off-limits, muting the legislative, media, and public examination of the administration’s policies. Including those policies that led to so many deaths in nursing homes, the needless devastation of countless businesses, and all other aspects of the pandemic response.”

The bill in question states, following the termination of the public health emergency declared by the Governor in Executive Order No. 103 of 2020, as extended, the force and effect of any administrative order, directive, or waiver issued by the head of a State agency that relied on the existence of public health emergency declared by the Governor in Executive Order No. 103 of 2020, as extended, would expire on January 11, 2022.  Under the bill, such administrative orders, directive, or waiver may be continued and may be modified by the head of a State agency, unless such administrative order, directive, or waiver is explicitly revoked, until January 11, 2022.

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     The bill provides that the Governor must notify the Legislature by January 1, 2022, if the Governor determines that it is necessary or appropriate to continue for an additional 90 days beyond January 11, 2022, any administrative order, directive, or waiver issued by the head of a State agency that relied on the existence of the public health emergency declared by the Governor in Executive Order No. 103 of 2020, as extended.  The administrative order, directive, or waiver would be extended for an additional 90 days if each House of the Legislature passes a concurrent resolution to continue any such administrative orders, directives, or waivers.  Any administrative orders, directives, or waivers as to which the Governor does not provide notification to the Legislature or as to which both Houses of the Legislature do not pass a concurrent resolution to continue would expire on January 11, 2022.

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     Under the bill, the provision of any administrative order, directive, or waiver issued by the Department of Health that relied on the existence of the public health emergency declared by the Governor in Executive Order No. 103 of 2020, as extended, governing staffing ratios, overtime, shifts, and vacation time shall remain in force and effect until September 1, 2021, at which time all such provisions of administrative orders, directives, and waivers governing staffing ratios, overtime, shifts, and vacation time will be superseded by relevant provisions of laws, regulations, or collective bargaining agreements in effect on that date.