Hearings Will Focus on Nursing & Veterans Home Deaths, MVC & Unemployment Failures, Destruction of Small Businesses
Senate Republicans will hold independent hearings into the Murphy Administration’s flawed response to the COVID-19 pandemic to provide impacted residents and families the opportunity to share their stories and ongoing concerns.
Senate Republicans will hold independent hearings into the Murphy Administration’s flawed response to the COVID-19 pandemic. (SenateNJ.com)
Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean has appointed Sen. Joe Pennacchio (R-26) to lead the hearings, alongside Sen. Kristin Corrado (R-40), Sen. Declan O’Scanlon (R-13), and Sen. Michael Testa (R-1).
“Since May, Senate Republicans have sought a bipartisan investigation to understand the policy and management failures of the Murphy Administration that led to preventable deaths, destroyed businesses and jobs, and left millions of New Jerseyans without access to important services and support,” said Kean (R-21). “While the Senate Democratic Majority has blocked our efforts to form a select committee to investigate these failures using the full oversight powers of the Legislature, we will move forward with independent hearings to provide people the opportunity to tell their stories and share their concerns about the State’s failed response to COVID-19.”
“While we had hoped to investigate these matters through a select committee with subpoena power – which continues to be our preferred forum – we have been left with no choice but to pursue independent hearings that we will conduct with or without the participation of the Senate Majority,” Kean said. “We sincerely believe the Senate Majority should be part of this important oversight process and invite them to designate members of their caucus to participate in these hearings. Our goal has always been for any legislative investigation to be bipartisan, so I hope the Senate Majority will choose to join and support this effort.”
Pennacchio first called for the formation of a select committee on May 11th, which he formalized with the introduction of SR-68 on May 14th. His resolution would create the “Senate Select Committee on the Executive Branch’s Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic,” a bipartisan committee that Democrats would have controlled due to their status as the majority party.
The Senate Republican caucus sent six letters to the Senate President urging the formation of the committee from May through January, while floor motions by Pennacchio to bring SR-68 up for a vote by the full Senate were tabled by the Majority on three separate occasions (May 14th, July 30th, and August 27th).
At one point, in May, the Senate President joined with Leader Kean to issue a joint press release announcing the formation of a select committee as requested, although no further action was taken by the Majority to advance the effort despite the repeated attempts by Senate Republicans to move the process forward.
“We’ve tried to convince Senate Democrats that the Legislature has a responsibility to investigate Executive branch policies that contributed to nearly 8,000 deaths in our nursing and veterans homes, destroyed thousands of small businesses, and cost nearly 2 million New Jerseyans their jobs,” said Pennacchio. “They’ve conducted expansive hearings about matters of far less importance, so it’s not clear why they have steadfastly opposed the formation of a select committee on the coronavirus that they would control. Senate Republicans believe we have an obligation to understand what went wrong with the Governor’s COVID response to prevent his mistakes from being repeated. I’m honored to have been charged with leading this effort.”
Pennacchio and Corrado will focus on New Jersey’s nursing homes, veterans homes, and long-term care facilities where nearly 8,000 residents and staff have lost their lives to COVID-19.
“The stories we’ve heard from families who lost loved ones in our nursing and veterans homes are absolutely heartbreaking,” said Corrado. “It’s even more heartbreaking to know that this tragedy is still being written. Nobody seems to be listening to the family members of current residents who continue to raise concerns that their loved ones are still at risk. We’re ready to listen and to help.”
O’Scanlon will focus on executive orders that have hurt small businesses and the underfunded relief efforts that have failed to offer much help.
“New Jersey has lost nearly one-third of our small businesses, including many of the restaurants and Main Street shops that once served our communities,” said O’Scanlon (R-13). “They weren’t forced out of business by the coronavirus, but by arbitrary restrictions imposed by Governor Murphy that made it impossible for them to keep their doors open and pay their employees. The governor’s directives were never based on science or data. We’ll hear from business owners how ridiculous and harmful those executive orders have been, and just how pitiful the State’s relief programs continue to be.”
Testa will focus on the failures of the State’s unemployment system and Motor Vehicle commission to meet the needs of New Jerseyans since March.
“The Department of Labor and the MVC are customer facing agencies of the State that have utterly failed to meet the needs of New Jerseyans who rely on their services,” said Testa. “After losing their jobs as a result of Governor Murphy’s executive orders, New Jerseyans shouldn’t have to spend days, weeks, and even months trying to access the unemployment benefits they’ve earned. They shouldn’t have to drive all over the state to find an open MVC agency or have to stand in line for hours in the cold just to be sent home empty handed. We’re going to shine some light on these ongoing failures of the Murphy Administration to inform our efforts to develop effective solutions.”
The first virtual hearing is tentatively scheduled for Friday, March 5th.
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