As his fellow Republican legislators gear up for a potential boycott of the legislature over the New Jersey State Capitol’s vaccine-or-testing mandate, Assemblyman Christopher DePhillips (R-Wyckoff) today proposed an alternate path forward: remaking the commission that implemented the policy in the first place.
The mandate, which is set to take effect tomorrow, will require anyone entering the state capitol complex – including legislators themselves – to be vaccinated, show proof of a negative Covid test, or take a rapid Covid test upon arrival.
“It is imperative that we give lawmakers who were elected to serve as the voice of their constituents a seat at the decision-making table,” DePhillips said in opposition to the requirement. “Any matters that concern the legislative process and people’s ability to participate fully in that process must include legislators.”
Responsibility for the policy lies with the State Capitol Joint Management Commission, which is made up of four appointees from the executive branch and two from each party in the legislature, functionally giving Democrats a 6-2 majority as long as they control the governorship. Indeed, both Republicans on the commission opposed the vaccine-or-testing mandate when it came up for a vote in October, but were outvoted 5-2.
Under DePhillips’ bill, the executive members of the commission would be removed; instead, each of the state’s four legislative leaders would be responsible for appointing two members, functionally locking in a 4-4 tie on the commission.
“The governor’s office does not even occupy the capitol complex, but they want to tell the legislative branch how to operate,” DePhillips said. “They are completely overstepping their authority and attempting to derail democracy… My bill restores a commonsense balance and ensures the appropriate separation of powers.”
Such a bill has little chance of success in a Democratic legislature and under a Democratic governor, both of which have no clear reason to relinquish their own power over the commission. But DePhillips’ proposal is another sign that Republicans are prepared to fight the mandate in a myriad of ways.
Democrats, meanwhile, continue to say that Republicans’ complaints are political theatrics that will make the capitol less safe.
“It’s just ridiculous,” Gov. Phil Murphy said yesterday of Republican resistance to the policy. “Let’s stop playing politics – this is going to put people’s health at risk.”