Phil Murphy’s pandemic powers officially end tomorrow, but New Jersey nervously waits to see what he does next

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New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy - Photo 130146694 © Laurence Agron |

TRENTON, NJ – When the New Jersey Senate and Assembly both agreed in a bipartisan fashion to allow New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy’s pandemic health emergency powers to expire Monday, the governor was left with a 24-hour window to make his next move.

That move could be an entirely new executive order to create a new public health emergency declaration, but this time, he’s going to be on his own, because even Democrats in a blue state understand the political death sentence that would await any elected official publicly supporting it.

Under a new emergency declaration, Murphy can create new executive orders to shut down businesses, close schools, and enforce mask and vaccine mandates. A declaration could also empower Murphy to bypass the elected bodies and implement vaccine passports and other public health reactions that have so far been ineffective at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 virus where they are in place.

The outgoing Senate and Assembly have essentially declared a vote of no confidence in the Governor’s ability to navigate the state out of the pandemic. Instead, the decisions going forward will be left in the hands of the incoming senators and assemblymen elected into office in November. That group includes more Republicans than previously and will be without longtime Senate Democrat leader and Senate President Steve Sweeney.

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Earlier on Monday, a defiant Murphy was adamant that he will not let the school mask mandate expire, but so far, has not taken any official action to counter it.

Murphy has a busy day on Tuesday, a day in which he was expected to greet a new session in both state chambers, and later in the day, he has to deliver his first State of the State address of his second term, which is appearing more each day to be four-year-long lame-duck session as Democrats today showed they aren’t willing to sink with Murphy’s ship.

Republican Senator Declan O’Scanlon today said Murphy’s childish reaction to not getting his way has become antagonistic.

“Whatever your position might be on mask mandates, the way the governor has handled this situation is antagonistic and an insult to the Legislature that appears to have finally developed a backbone,” said O’Scanlon. “This is not the way to get things done when you are supposed to be dealing with another co-equal branch of government.”

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“Covid at this point is endemic. We’re going to have to live with it. Thank God the virus has not impacted our children anywhere near the level of adults,” said O’Scanlon. “The flu poses just as big a threat to children as does Covid. So, unless you are going to advocate that children need to be permanently masked in school every year during the winter months, then you have to accept it’s time to end the state-wide universal mask mandate.

The Senate is expected to meet again Tuesday at noon, but at this point, the only matter on the agenda is the pre-planned reorganization session. No bills are scheduled to be heard, but that doesn’t necessarily mean Murphy and Democrats aren’t going to burn the midnight oil overnight to strike a deal.

All of Murphy’s extended executive orders will officially expire on Tuesday after being granted six-month extensions in July by the state legislature.