On any given issues, businesses will want two things from government: Be consistent and be predictable. As New Jersey’s reopening process plugs along, however, the state’s two Republican legislative leaders say the Murphy administration could do better.
Senator Tom Kean, the Senate’s Republican Leader, and his counterpart, Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick, joined NJBIA and State Chamber of Commerce for a virtual town hall this morning where they discussed the reopening process and a number of other issues.
“That lack of consistency, that true transparency of data, that means that families, businesses and nonprofits cannot make plans that both keep their employees safe but also allow them to engage in their daily business,” Kean said.
Other states, notably New York, have been consistent and transparent in their decisions, and as a result, their residents and businesses have a better understanding of where they are in the reopening process, Kean said. For New Jersey to get there, the public needs to see the data the governor is using to make these decisions. Even if they disagree with what Gov. Phil Murphy decides on any given day, they will at least be able to understand the rationale.
Both Kean and Bramnick said the governor did a good job early on in the crisis, but that the decisions have not been consistent or transparent since. Kean cited two specifics where the administration’s decisions are confounding to many: Not distributing more of the $2.4 billion in CARES Act funding New Jersey received to help small businesses and reneging on a pledge to reopen restaurants for indoor dining.
For Bramnick, those are just two examples of how governing by executive order is filled with pitfalls if it’s not done with public input.
“If you’re going to make decisions and run the state by executive order, you need to have hearings,” Bramnick said. “You need to hear from restaurant owners, business, infectious disease experts. You need people to testify in front of the Legislature. Everyone has to have a voice.”
Such input would make the governor’s decisions easier to accept since people will have had an opportunity to weigh in. Bramnick noted that hearings are still possible despite the shutdown; legislators have held a number hearings on other matters over the last few months.
For those who say the governor needs that kind of authority in an emergency, Bramnick said that in the past, emergencies only lasted for a few days or weeks, while New Jersey is approaching five months in its current state of emergency. He stressed that he is not questioning the seriousness of the pandemic, only the wisdom of trying to govern in a state of emergency for such a long time.