Republicans in the New Jersey State Assembly are refusing to adhere to its vaccine mandate that requires all members to present proof of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test before entering the statehouse. The lawmakers also threatened to boycott the upcoming legislative session if they are denied access to the chamber.

The policy is one of many promoted by Gov. Phil Murphy (D), who was recently narrowly re-elected.

The State Capitol Joint Management Commission laid out its policy last Tuesday:

All persons, except as otherwise specified herein, who wish to enter the Legislative State House, State House Annex and/or Legislative Staff Building/South Addition on committee days, voting sessions, quorum calls, and for any other meetings or gatherings, other than school tours, must show ID and proof of full vaccination or a negative COVID-19 PCR or rapid test conducted within the previous 72 hours.

Members of the Legislature, who are attending voting sessions, quorum calls, or any other meetings or gatherings in the Legislative State House, State House Annex and Legislative Staff Building/South Addition, must provide proof of full vaccination or a negative COVID-19 PCR or rapid test result from a test that was conducted in the previous seven (7) days.

Legislative employees, security personnel and other Capitol Complex staff, who have previously provided their employer with proof of full vaccination and/or a negative COVID-19 PCR or rapid test that was conducted within the previous seven (7) days, shall not be required to provide additional proof of vaccination to attend committee days, voting sessions, quorum calls, or for any other meetings or gatherings in the Legislative State House, State House Annex and Legislative Staff Building/South Addition.

Last week, The New Jersey Globe reported that “in a virtual meeting on Wednesday, GOP legislators agreed that if some of their colleagues are blocked from entering the statehouse, none of them would participate in next week’s voting session.”

Assembly Minority Leader John DiMaio (R-Hackettstown) first expressed his caucus’s concerns to Speaker Craig Coughlin shortly after this month’s election.

Republicans argue that the requirement is unfair, unconstitutional and that it prevents them from doing their jobs, even though they have the option of working remotely.

“I have no intention of complying with this unconstitutional statehouse policy. To do so would give credence to the idea that mandates and discrimination based on vaccine status is ok, and it’s not ok,” said Assemblyman Brian Bergen (R-Denville).

“It’s a backward policy,” said Assemblyman Jay Webber (R-Morris Plains). “It’s irrational and the citizens shouldn’t be penalized for it. You can’t create a second-class legislator with them on the phone and not on the floor. Citizens should not have their rights curtailed based on vaccination status.”

There is still some uncertainty over how the New Jersey State Police, which has jurisdiction at the Capitol, will enforce the mandate or punish those who choose to defy it.

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