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New Jersey’s rule-making process is officially taking a back seat to combating COVID-19 after Gov. Phil Murphy signed an executive order extending the expiration date of regulations and various deadlines that are set to expire during the public health emergency.

The extension took effect April 14 and will last until 90 days after the emergency has ended.

“Every state agency is fully focused on the fight against COVID-19 right now,” Murphy said in signing Executive Order No. 127. “This executive order provides them with the flexibility they need by extending deadlines associated with their normal rulemaking work until after this crisis is over.”

NJBIA supports the move. In fact, NJBIA’s Ray Cantor, vice president for Government Affairs, called for such an even broader extension back in March.

“Given the closure of many of our businesses, the mandate for working at home and for social distancing, the closure or lack of services being provided by local government, the unavailability of many consultants and laboratories, and the limits of the (New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s) resources, we respectfully request that the commissioner exercise her discretion to alleviate many of the requirements the business community has in meeting various permits, compliance, and regulatory deadlines,” Cantor wrote in a letter sent to the DEP March 27.

While Murphy’s order does not cover expiring permits and filing deadlines that may directly impact individual businesses, it will give departments more flexibility in when to hold hearings and hopefully delay them until full public participation can be achieved.

New Jersey regulations are generally adopted with an expiration date so that government agencies have to readopt them every few years. This is designed to give agencies an opportunity to review, update and change them as well as for the public to comment on them. Regulations represent a big portion of the workload for NJBIA’s Government Affairs staff, which often participates in stakeholder meetings to bring the business community’s perspective into the process.

Beyond the regulations, there are environmental permits, registrations, and reporting deadlines that may expire or come due during the emergency and impact individual business’ ability to operate effectively. NJBIA hopes these deadlines will be extended in the near future.

“As we begin to plan to reopen our economy after this prolonged shutdown, the state should consider the impact a backlog of expired permits and other paperwork would have on our economic recovery,” Cantor said. “We do not want anything unnecessarily interfering with businesses opening their doors again and bringing people back to work once it’s determined that it’s safe to do so.”