State Sen. Michael Doherty (R-Oxford) today slammed Gov. Phil Murphy’s executive order allowing tenants to use their security deposits to pay rent as unconstitutional.
“We have a governor, and not a king,” Doherty said, maintaining that the State Constitution specifically prohibits changing the terms of a private contract.
Murphy’s executive order allowed renters to direct their landlords to use their security deposits to pay their rents, whether that be to make up for a shortfall or to pay it in full.
“Remember now, this is money that had been paid up front to secure a lease, and during this emergency, renters should have the ability to tap this deposit to help them secure their place in their home,” Murphy said on Friday.
Doherty maintains that Murphy lacks the constitutional authority to change the terms of a private contract by executive decree.
“Shame on Governor Murphy for trashing the New Jersey Constitution,” the Warren County Republican said. “The Constitution was put in place to protect the rights of individuals and to serve as a check on unlimited government power.”
He said the governor’s actions “show little regard for his oath of office, or the Constitution which he swore to uphold.”
“Recently, he stated that he didn’t consider the Constitution before issuing an executive order shutting down churches, and that constitutional considerations are ‘above my pay grade,’” Doherty said. “Our Founding Fathers would have winced in despair.”
Murphy today doubled down on his position that no renters should be threatened with eviction by their landlords during the current COVID-19 emergency.
“Under no circumstances may any landlord even attempt to evict a tenant,” he said. “No one should fear losing their home. Period.”
Republicans have begun to distance themselves on some of Murphy’s decisions related to the deadly coronavirus pandemic.
State Sen. Michael Testa, Jr. (R-Vineland) led a fight against Murphy’ decision to close retail gun shops, calling it a Second Amendment violation. Yesterday, Testa called for a probe of the state Department of Corrections’ handling of the virus within New Jersey’s prison system.
Several Republicans, including gubernatorial candidate Jack Ciattarelli, have pushed for the reopening of state and county parks.
A Monmouth University Poll released this week showed that 70% of New Jerseyans – including a majority of Republicans – agreed with Murphy.
GOP legislators from Monmouth County — State Sen. Declan O’Scanlon (R-Little Silver), Assemblywoman Serena DiMaso (R-Holmdel) and Gerald Scharfenberger (R-Middletown) – called on Murphy to allow small businesses to make their own decisions about when to reopen.
Last week, Doherty launched an online petition to allow religious services to resume, as long as reasonable precautions to protect the safety of congregants were followed.
“The residents of New Jersey need to stand up to King Murphy and end this recklessness. His shut down of the state’s economy has to end, and that is the best way to help renters and homeowners pay their bills,” Doherty said. “We need to let renters and homeowners go back to work in order to earn a living and support their families.”