Chaos and confusion erupted in the halls outside the guest house New Jersey Assembly on Thursday several republican Lawmakers have challenged a new requirement to show evidence of COVID-19 vaccination Or he tested negative and was prevented by state soldiers – albeit briefly – from entering the decorated room.
Hours later, a state appeals court awarded a victory to Republicans who sued to block the proof-of-vaccination requirement, granting the GOP’s request to halt the order and schedule a possible hearing later this month. It was not immediately clear what effect the ruling had on the demand.
Ahead of Thursday’s voting session, at least 10 Republicans headed toward the assembly hall on the first day the vaccine demand was in effect.
They were stopped by uniformed soldiers for about 10 minutes before eventually entering without showing any evidence of vaccination or a negative test. Soldiers stationed at the entrance refused to give an explanation.
“You have no right to stop us,” said Assemblyman Eric Peterson. “You see this? You see this, people? He prevented us from entering our house.”
“This is America!” Member Hal Wirths added. Lawmakers compared the situation to something that might happen under a dictatorship.
A handful of Republican lawmakers cleared the entrance after Assemblyman Brian Bergen asked the soldiers, “I can walk 30 feet this way, 30 feet this way, but not that way?” He points toward the room.
Moments later, some other association members—who had earlier refused to show vaccination cards or a negative test—entered the room unbanned. An email seeking an explanation has been sent to the State Police.
Subsequently, what appeared to be close to the 28-member Republican minority had their seats in Parliament.
Democratic Caucus Chairman Craig Coughlin called it a “massive failure of security” in a speech to Republicans, saying that people across the state have made similar concessions during the pandemic. He said he was angry.
“Twenty-eight members of the minority bloc cannot be bothered to show common decency and humanity because they prefer two minutes on TV news,” Coughlin said.
The show was revealed during the first voting session in the lame-duck period, the time frame between the November elections and the start of the new legislature in January. It was also the first time lawmakers met for a vote since anyone entering the statehouse complex showed a negative test or evidence of vaccination.
Tables with officials to check documents have been set up at the entrances around the complex, and poster boards announcing the new policy stood on easel and state troops rolled around the building as well.
Some Republicans who scoffed at the rule said it was unenforceable, considering it to be inconsistent with the state constitution.
“It’s a totally unfair and discriminatory policy,” Bergen said. “They basically create two classes of people, vaccinated and unvaccinated.”
But others stick to it reluctantly. State Republican Senator Holly Shabey offered the soldiers a vaccination card.
“I know you’re just doing your job,” she said before calling the condition a pejorative term.
Late Thursday, Judge Alison Accorso of the Appeals Chamber issued a short order granting the GOP’s request in a lawsuit intended to stop the order. The judge’s order sets a possible hearing date for December 13, and while it allows the lawsuit to move forward, it does not address the core arguments in the case.
A letter requesting comment has been left for the attorney general’s office, which will represent the joint legislative committee that sets the condition.
Kevin Drennan, chair of the panel, declined through a spokesperson to comment on the lawsuit earlier Thursday.
Democratic Governor Phil Murphy has set similar requirements for state workers. On Monday, he denounced the Republican Party’s opposition to the state house rule as “reckless”.
The row comes as congressional Republicans opposed to President Joe Biden’s vaccination rules in Congress prepare to block a much-needed funding bill. The Biden administration has followed through on vaccination requirements on several groups of workers, but the effort is facing setback after setback in legal cases.