Gov. Phil Murphy (Daniella Heminghaus for New Jersey Monitor)
Senate and Assembly committees approved a resolution Thursday that would extend a series of health care-related administrative directives, but the measure would also allow some executive orders to expire against the governor’s wishes.
Gov. Phil Murphy sought a 90-day extension for a variety of administrative orders, executive orders, and other executive actions, citing the rising number of positive COVID-19 cases in the state. The resolution advanced by the committees would provide only a 45-day extension.
The bill now moves on to a full vote in the Legislature. Its passage by the Senate Budget and Assembly Appropriations committees was opposed by Republicans, who have railed against Murphy’s management of the pandemic using executive action.
“It’s no longer an emergency,” said Assemblyman Jay Webber (R-Morris). “We’ve been dealing with this for two years now. The Legislature can no longer defer to the executive.”
Democrats contested the Republicans view, charging record-high case counts necessitated some executive actions to remain in place to contain the spread of COVID-19.
“We’re seeing a remarkable uptick in the number of infections,” said Assemblyman Herb Conoway (D-Burlington), the chamber’s Health Committee chairman.
Still, Democrats echoed their Republican colleagues’ desire for the Legislature to play a greater role in the management of the pandemic than it has since it began.
It’s not clear whether Murphy will sign the bill. Even if he doesn’t, he could unilaterally extend his executive orders by again declaring a public health emergency.
The concurrent resolution, reviewed by the New Jersey Monitor, would extend administrative rules that bar insurance carriers from charging customers for COVID-19 tests and vaccines. It would also require reimbursement parity for telehealth and medicine services regardless of whether they fall within an insurer’s network.
The resolution would also extend rules allowing remote public meetings and a variety of Department of Health orders enabling pandemic rules for hospitals and other health care providers.
Murphy and Democratic lawmakers last June reached a deal ending the state’s public health emergency, which Murphy declared in March 2020. Because of that bill, many of the executive orders still in effect sunset on Jan. 11, and it allows Murphy to seek a 90-day extension with the approval of the Legislature.
Though the resolution advanced Thursday would approve a series of administrative actions taken by state departments and agencies, it does not extend a series of executive orders that Murphy asked the Legislature to prolong.
Some of those orders were not immediately relevant, like ones setting rules for summer camps, while others, like ones extending eviction and utility shutoff protections, have been supplanted by legislation passed in recent months.
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