NJ Assembly Republicans Defy Statehouse’s Proof of Vax Requirement After Standoff with State Troopers

A Moroccan health worker prepares of the Pfizer-BioNTech at a Covid-19 vaccination centre, in the city of Sale, on October 5, 2021. (Photo by FADEL SENNA / AFP) (Photo by FADEL SENNA/AFP via Getty Images)
FADEL SENNA/AFP via Getty Images

New Jersey state troopers blocked Republicans Assembly members from entering the statehouse in Trenton on Thursday before Republicans defied the rule and entered the Assembly chamber. A new coronavirus policy that went into effect Wednesday, which requires proof of vaccination or a negative coronavirus test from those who wish to enter the statehouse, was the catalyst for the conundrum. Late Thursday, a state judge stayed the order following a lawsuit filed by Republicans on Wednesday.

Half a dozen Republicans refused to provide documentation of vaccination or a negative test, according to NJ.com. Assemblyman Erik Peterson (R-Hunterdon) said, “This is tyranny, folks,” and added, “They’re not letting the minority party vote.”

“Liberty is dying right here on the floor,” said Assemblyman Hal Wirths (R-Sussex) per Nj.com

“I know you’re just doing your jobs. But this is horseshit,” said Republican state Sen. Holly Schepisi as she showed her vaccine card to gain entry to the senate chambers, NJ.com reports. 

Following a fifteen-minute stalemate, troopers informed Brian Bergen (R-Morris) that they would not restrain the lawmakers if they entered, according to NJ.com. Bergen shared with his fellow Assembly members that the troopers would not “physically restrain us” and added, “We can just walk past them.”

Republicans then took their seats in the Assembly.

Shortly after the Republican assembly members took their seats, they were reportedly threatened with physical removal, according to a tweet from NJ1015 radio host Bill Spadea.

Speaker Craig Coughlin reportedly threatened to have the assembly members, who did not comply with the order, removed from the chambers. Assemblywoman and Deputy Republican Whip Serena DiMaso tweeted, “** UPDATE** Speaker Coughlin has said that if we do not vacate the chambers in two hours we will be physically removed and/or carried out. @NJGOP @NJAssemblyGOP standing strong!”

Minutes after DiMaso’s tweet, Democrat leadership caved, and the “security sweep” was canceled, according to a follow-up tweet from the Republican deputy whip.

Republicans waited patiently for their Democrat counterparts to join the assembly session.

Speaker Coughlin reportedly took the floor after the conundrum and called the Republican lawmakers’ entrance into the chamber a “political stunt,” according to a tweet from reporter Daniel Munoz of NJBiz. Coughlin also dubbed the New Jersey state trooper’s security efforts as a “colossal failure.”

The ordeal centered around a new coronavirus protocol that states in part:

All persons who wish to enter the Legislative State House, State House Annex and/or Legislative Staff Building/South Addition on committee days, voting sessions, quorum calls, and for any other meetings or gatherings, other than school tours, must show ID and proof of full vaccination or a negative COVID-19 PCR test conducted within the previous 72 hours.

The rule went into effect Wednesday and prompted Republicans in both the Senate and the Assembly to file a lawsuit in Superior Court aiming “to block the policy, which a little-known state commission approved in October,” according to NJ.com.

Late Thursday, state Judge Allison Accurso granted the stay request, and a hearing is set for December 13 so long as Accurso chooses to harken to oral arguments, according to Politico.


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