New Jersey state assembly speaker announced on Jan. 7 that all assembly members and staffers will be required to present a negative COVID-19 test result regardless of their vaccination status to enter the legislative premises.
Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, a Democrat, said in a statement that all who intend to access the Assembly Chambers of the New Jersey legislature on Jan. 10 and Jan. 11, including lawmakers, staffers, and the press, must show a negative COVID-19 rapid test taken after 12 p.m. on Saturday.
The new policy will be effective until the end of the current legislative session on Jan. 11, when newly elected Assembly members will be sworn in. A negative COVID-19 test is also required for all who attend the swearing-in ceremony, Coughlin said.
Those who test positive or cannot make the sessions in person will be able to join all proceedings remotely via phone, Coughlin said.
Prior to the announcement, all persons, including lawmakers, staff, and the public who attended all gatherings and meetings in the New Jersey state capitol building, were required to show either proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 or a negative PCR test result.
On Jan. 9, the Assembly Speaker announced in a statement that he has tested positive for COVID-19, and has been in in self-quarantine. He said that he was “experiencing very mild cold-like symptoms” and would remotely participate in activities held during the two final days of the current legislative session.
“I remain extremely grateful that my symptoms are more than manageable, which is thanks to the science of vaccination and boosters, as well as the extra precaution of wearing a mask,” Coughlin said in the statement.
Republican lawmakers made several attempts to defy the policy to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or negative test in order to enter the New Jersey State House, calling it discriminatory.
On Dec. 2, the day when the policy became effective, several Republican Assembly members refused to show proof of their COVID-19 vaccination or negative test result when entering the State House. They were stopped by uniformed troopers for about 10 minutes before they eventually entered the Assembly chambers without disclosing their COVID-19 status.
The day before the policy went into effect, Senate and Assembly GOP lawmakers filed a lawsuit at a state superior court to block COVID-19 policy that restricted public access to the New Jersey legislature but the request was denied by Appellate Division Judge Allison Accurso on Dec. 10, according to The Associated Press.
On the next legislative session held on Dec. 20, six GOP lawmakers continued to defy the rule by refusing to show their vaccination or negative test proof, but this time the state police blocked them from entering the legislature building. After being denied entry to the State House the Republican lawmakers had to vote outside of the Assembly Chambers.
On the same day, New Jerseyans rallied in front of the State House to protest the COVID-19 policy restricting access to the state legislature.
Republican Assemblyman Jay Webber who was one of the lawmakers prohibited from entering the legislature building commented on Twitter on the Speaker’s new COVID-19 policy:
“Gratified that our principled stands in December forced better policy in January: NO vax passports at Statehouse next week. Amazing we had to go to such lengths, but we’ve been vindicated. Universal testing and NO discrimination against unvaccinated persons.”
Gratified that our principled stands in Dec forced better policy in Jan: NO vax passports at Statehouse next wk.
Amazing we had to go to such lengths, but we’ve been vindicated.
Universal testing & NO discrimination against unvaccinated persons.https://t.co/saJoogTiZd
— Jay Webber (@JayWebberNJ) January 7, 2022