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A Senate committee advanced a bill today, strongly supported by NJBIA, that would direct Gov. Phil Murphy to implement a county-based plan which allows businesses to operate during a pandemic based on the health numbers in that region. 

Citing specific regional reopening approaches currently applied in New York and Pennsylvania in testimony submitted to the Senate Commerce Committee, NJBIA Vice President of Government Affairs Christopher Emigholz said the intent of bill S-3093 is to move New Jersey away from its one-size-fits-all model to benefit areas of the state less impacted by COVID-19.

“The entire economy and all of our tax revenue would not have to suffer as much with this scalpel approach instead of a blunter statewide edict, while public health will still be appropriately protected where necessary,” Emigholz said.

The bill was released from committee by a vote of 5-0. 

The bill, S-3093, would direct the Governor, in consultation with the Commissioner of Health, to develop and implement a color categorized (red, yellow, green) mitigation plan to allow businesses to operate during a pandemic. 

NJBIA has been advocating for a regional approach to safe reopenings since the summer, when the coronavirus curve had flattened, but statewide restrictions remained.

Gov. Murphy has previously ruled out a regional approach to reopening the economy as it related to business, but later acknowledged the value of a regional approach for the reopening of schools in the fall.

In his testimony, Emigholz also said the bill, sponsored by Senator Vin Gopal (D11) and Senate President Steve Sweeney (D3), would bring transparency, predictability and hope to New Jersey businesses through more data.

“To run a business, you need a plan, and it is hard to plan under the constant threat of unpredictable and unilateral restrictions from state government,” Emigholz said. “This improved data usage available to all could eliminate a repeat of what happened last July 4th weekend, when a last-minute reversal forced many restaurants to waste resources for a planned reopening that never happened.”

“While New Jersey has been hit hard by the pandemic, each part of the state has been affected differently and at different times,” Senator Gopal said in a statement. “This has made it especially difficult considering closures and re-openings since closures are determined on a statewide level, counties that may have few COVID-19 cases are being hit with the same restrictions as those areas being inundated with cases. By giving control to our county leaders, New Jersey counties can implement plans that are best suited for them at any given time.” 

“Our goal is that by enacting this bill, New Jersey counties can regain autonomy in making decisions that best benefit their community,” Sweeney added. “By implementing a color-coded reopening system for New Jersey based on local conditions and data, we will be able to effectively keep the economy open in correlation to how the virus is spreading in a specific area.”