Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-South Amboy) announced today that all attendees of next week’s Assembly session and reorganization ceremony, when new members will be sworn in, will be required to show proof of a negative test regardless of vaccination status.
The new mandate, which Coughlin said was designed in response to the surge in Omicron variant cases, will apply to legislators, staffers, guests, and members of the press. A rapid testing site will be available in the statehouse on both January 10 and 11, and those who cannot attend in person or test positive for Covid will be able to participate remotely.
“The pandemic has challenged us all,” Coughlin said in a statement. “But I will not compromise when it comes to the health and safety of members of the legislature and the public while conducting the people’s business.”
The statehouse’s existing vaccine-or-test mandate, which requires all who enter the statehouse to show a negative test or proof of vaccination, has been the subject of multiple Republican-led protests and is currently under litigation. But several of the assemblymembers who protested that mandate, most prominently Assemblyman Brian Bergen (R-Denville), said they’d be more amenable to a universal testing mandate like the one announced today.
It’s not fully clear, however, how the two different mandates will overlap next week. A spokesperson from Coughlin’s office said that the Assembly testing policy will be implemented separately from the larger statehouse policy, meaning that legislators and visitors to the statehouse may have to comply with the two mandates simultaneously.
This story was updated at 4:46 p.m. with more details from the Speaker’s office.