Murphy Ends School Mask Mandate:
Earlier this week, Gov. Phil Murphy began to roll back the state’s aggressive anti-Covid rules, starting with a school mask mandate for all students and kids in child care settings. The mask mandate for school children in New Jersey will be lifted on March 7th.
“We're not going to manage Covid to zero. We have to learn how to live with Covid as we move from a pandemic to the endemic phase of this virus,” Murphy, said during a press briefing. “The overall rates of infection among all students and educational staff, regardless of where that exposure occurred, has dropped off significantly over the past month.”
Covid-19’s devastating impact on New Jersey throughout 2020 led the governor to impose some of the most stringent public health rules in the country. New Jersey has lost over 30,000 residents since the first case was reported in March 2020.
New Jersey Republicans claimed victory and said Murphy had bowed to their pressure to take away masking in schools. But many have gone a step further and said he should end the mandate immediately and not wait until March.
Murphy Allies Create Political Action Committee & Non-Profit Organization:
First Lady Tammy Murphy and Dan Bryan, one of Governor Murphy’s most trusted advisors will be leading a political action committee (PAC) and a 501c4 that appear aimed at promoting the governor’s message for a more national audience. The organizations are called “Stronger Fairer Forward.”
Bryan, the Governor’s senior advisor for strategic communications, will leave his post in the Administration to become executive director for both organizations. Murphy’s 2021 campaign manager, Mollie Binotto, will also serve on both boards, along with Kristen McMahon, a close ally of the Murphys.
The nonprofit will “support policies that aim to strengthen and expand the middle class and provide opportunity for everyone,” according to a press release, which also said it will combat “the ongoing nationwide assault on election officials and state election laws.” The PAC will support candidates.
Political action committees are required to disclose their donors. However, 501(c)(4) organizations are not and can accept unlimited donations. A press release announcing the groups’ formation did not say whether the 501(c)(4) would disclose donors.
Murphy to Announce Legislative Proposals to Control Drug Costs:
Governor Murphy has outlined proposals to cap co-pays on several life-saving medicines, increase transparency around pharmaceutical pricing and improve oversight of supply-chain middlemen in an effort to make prescription drugs more affordable for New Jerseyans.
Murphy alluded to this effort in his January 11th State-of-the-State Address. The concepts, based largely on previous proposals in New Jersey and other states, are contained in a memo currently circulating among New Jersey lawmakers, staffers and stakeholders. Legislation is now being developed and Murphy plans to formally announcet in the weeks to come.
“Lower costs will save families hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars a year. But, across the programs our state administers (like Medicaid and FamilyCare), lower costs can save us, and you, untold millions in tax dollars,” Murphy added. “Containing and lowering health care and prescription drug costs isn’t just good for your family’s health and bottom line, it’s also good for our state’s.”
New Legislator Profile: Assemblyman Don Guardian (R-2): Assemblyman Guardian was elected to the state assembly in November 2021, having previously served as mayor of Atlantic City from 2014-18 and as the Business Administrator from Toms River Township from 2018-20.
Assemblyman Guardian serves on the Environment and Solid Waste Commitee, the Tourism, Gaming, and the Arts Committee, and the Special Committee on Infrastructure and Natural Resources.
Governor Murphy’s Budget Address is expected to be delayed until March 8th so he can deliver it in-person in the Assembly Chambers in Trenton.
“The Governor hopes to be able to deliver the budget address safely in-person. By requesting a two-week extension, we are hoping that [Covid] case numbers will allow the address to be delivered in the Chamber for the first time in two years.” - Alyana Alfaro Post, spokesperson for Governor Murphy.