A plan proposed by the New Jersey government which requires full COVID-19 vaccination or a test for lawmakers, staff, and the public to enter the state capitol complex will limit public access to legislature, according to Republican lawmakers.
A New Jersey government commission—comprising four legislative staff and four staff from the governor’s office—introduced a resolution requiring all persons who attend all gatherings and meetings in state capital buildings to show either proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 or the negative result of a COVID-19 PCR test performed within the last 72 hours.
In addition, all individuals entering any New Jersey state capitol building must undergo a temperature check daily at the first entry, the resolution said. The proposal also introduced mask mandate in all capitol premises.
The public will be allowed to enter the building only through designated entrances and the number of visitors in the Capitol during voting sessions or committee days will be limited. In addition, the occupancy of the gallery of both chambers of the legislature will be reduced to one-third of its capacity, and attendees of committee meetings will have to leave every other chair empty, the resolution stated.
Tours are required to certify that all tour attendees are fully vaccinated and have negative COVID-19 test results.
Lawmakers Fight Back
New Jersey Senate Republicans sent a letter to Senate President Stephen Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin to oppose the resolution stating that these new rules would “restrict public access to the New Jersey State House and the legislative process.”
The letter signed by the entire Republican caucus said “the testing requirement for unvaccinated individuals is exclusionary” and urged the Democratic Senate and Assembly leaders to withdraw the resolution.
There is no testing system available to the New Jersey legislature or visitors to facilitate easy testing for COVID-19, the letter said.
“Without an accessible system for testing, an unvaccinated person who wishes to enter the State House must find testing on their own. According to published reports, COVID-19 testing facilities have long scheduling delays with additional waits for results to be reported.”
Delays in providing meeting agendas and their frequent last-minute changes “could make it impossible for unvaccinated individuals to comply with the testing alternative to enter the State House and testify at public hearings, as is their right,” the letter explained.
Some members of the commission which introduced the resolution are also members of the executive branch, which raises concerns related to the separation of powers, the Republican senators said in the letter.
By contrast, the existing return-to-work policy implemented by the Senate Republican Office ensures a safe work environment through a variety of choices including options for vaccination, testing, and accommodations for those with natural immunity due to prior COVID-19 infection or other concerns, the letter said.
New Jersey state Assemblyman John DiMaio said that the resolution introducing COVID-19 restrictions in the legislature infringes on the rights of the people to testify, and on the oath of legislators to represent their constituents, according to a statement by New Jersey Assembly Republicans.
DeMaio also expressed his concern that the members representing the state executive branch in the commission that proposed the resolution “have votes on the commission now attempting to dictate legislative rules.”
“Not one elected official is on this obscure commission, but they get to tell elected officials and the public what to do?” Di Maio said in the statement. “Liberty has become what government limits instead of protects.”
The resolution was scheduled to be voted on Tuesday.
COVID-19 is a disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus.