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State Sen. Declan O'Scanlon. (Photo by Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe).

Senate Republicans debut ‘Give It Back’ initiative aimed at Murphy

Senators use petition to demand Murphy relinquish emergency powers, Covid mandates

By Joey Fox, February 03 2022 3:15 pm

The Senate Republican caucus launched a new “Give It Back” initiative today, a wide-ranging set of demands aimed at Gov. Phil Murphy insisting that he end his public health emergency declaration, give coequal power back to the state legislature, cancel mask and vaccine mandates, and return a $3 billion budget surplus to the public.

According to the Senate Republican office, Republicans “​​will engage the public to join the Give It Back initiative through traditional and social media, direct outreach, and an online petition where New Jerseyans can join the movement and demonstrate their support.” After launching an hour ago, the petition has so far garnered 63 signatures.

“Governor Murphy has taken so much from New Jerseyans since the start of the pandemic,” Senate Minority Leader Steven Oroho (R-Franklin) said. “He’s taken money, he’s taken power, and he’s taken rights, choices, and freedoms from every single New Jerseyan. We’re going to help New Jerseyans send him the message that it’s time to give it back.”

State Sen. Declan O’Scanlon (R-Little Silver) added that the legislature has been unable to prevent Murphy from consolidating pandemic-related power, using it to implement mask mandates in schools, vaccine mandates for health care workers, and other policies many Republicans have long resented.

“We’ve all witnessed as the governor has taken power from local elected officials, school board elected officials, and legislative elected officials – power that he has wielded without competence,” he said.

O’Scanlon recently introduced a bill that would limit public health emergencies to 60 days unless the legislature explicitly approves an extension. Currently, the governor can indefinitely extend public health emergencies for 30 days at a time.

Such a proposal has at least shown signs of life in the Democratic-controlled legislature, with State Sen. Vin Gopal (D-Long Branch) signing on as co-sponsor; many Democratic legislators also appeared uncomfortable with Murphy’s emergency powers last month.

As for the other policies espoused in Give It Back, O’Scanlon said that he hopes Democrats in the legislature will come around, and mocked the many legislators who most likely will not.

“If you’re a legislator who says you don’t back our whole Give It Back effort and my bill, what you’re saying is, ‘I’m spineless and I don’t want to do my job,’” O’Scanlon said. “That’s a hell of a message to be sending to your constituents.”

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