Home>Legislature>In the Assembly, a fight over wearing masks

Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin presides over a session of the New Jersey State Assembly on May 20, 2021. (Photo: NJ Office of Legislative Services/NJ Globe.)

In the Assembly, a fight over wearing masks

By David Wildstein, May 20 2021 9:53 pm

There was a minor revolt in the New Jersey State Assembly today when some Republican legislators balked at wearing masks during a session on Thursday.

Lawmakers were initially told to wear their masks until they got to their desks on the Assembly floor which are enclosed in plexiglass, multiple legislators from both parties told the New Jersey Globe.  But later, after some complaints, they were told to wear their masks through the entire session.

During a break, word reached the Republican caucus that unless Republicans were wearing masks while seated at their desks, the Democratic leadership would hold bills sponsored by GOP legislators that were scheduled to be voted on.

That caused some divisions on the Republican side.  Some legislators wanted a confrontation with Democrats, but others – including Ocean County Republicans Brian Rumpf (R-Little Egg Harbor) and DiAnne Gove (R-Long Beach) – didn’t want to be involved in a protest.  Rumpf and Gove had their bill extending property tax exemptions to veterans who are tenant shareholders up for a vote.

Eventually, the lawmakers said, they two parties agreed to a face-saving, cosmetic compromise: they would wear a mask on their way to their desk, and if they chose to take their masks off, it was requested that those legislators keep their heads down so no one could see.

When her bill came up for a vote, Gove made an impassioned speech in support of her initiative.

“Mr. Speaker, thank you for posting this bill,” she said.

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