TOMS RIVER, NJ – Imagine you were sitting at Thanksgiving dinner and police knocked on your door after a neighbor noticed you had more than ten guests at your home. Then imagine you were issued a $15,000 fine by the police department. That could become a reality if it was up to New Jersey State Senator James Holzapfel and New Jersey Assemblymen Gregory P. McGuckin (Toms River) and John Catalano (Brick).
This past spring, during the first wave of the pandemic, the three Jersey Shore legislators called for crippling financial penalties for anyone violating Phil Murphy’s executive orders.
In a press release, Holzapfel, McGuckin and Catalano sought to give Governor Phil Murphy a financial weapon against violators of his executive orders.
“In response to the continuation of public gatherings in various parts of the state in violation of an executive order during the COVID-19 public health crisis and State of Emergency, Senator Jim Holzapfel and Assemblymen Greg McGuckin and John Catalano (all R-10) will introduce legislation to create significant monetary penalties for those who host gatherings in violation of the Emergency Health Powers Act,” the press release read. “Governor Murphy has ordered all New Jerseyans to stay home to slow the transmission and spread of the coronavirus, a highly infectious disease.”
“There have been a number of large public gatherings since the Governor has issued the stay at home order, and we feel violators should face significant consequences for failure to comply with a directive that’s necessary to save lives,” stated Senator Holzapfel. “During this public health crisis, the executive order mandating social distancing should not be taken lightly. Mass gatherings during this pandemic put an unnecessary strain on an already fragile healthcare system, create risk for responding law enforcement officers, and threaten the lives of participants.”
The bill would establish a monetary penalty of $10,000 to $15,000 for any person who willfully or knowingly hosts gatherings in violation of any provision of the “Emergency Health Powers Act.” Gatherings of all kinds including weddings, parties, and social events have been prohibited by the Governor since March 21 when he issued an executive order to slow the spread of COVID-19.
McGuckin, who also serves as the township attorney for nearly two dozen municipalities, boards and commissions at the Jersey Shore declared residents must pay stronger penalties for violating Governor Phil Muprhy’s executive orders.
“There must be a stronger penalty for violating the social distancing orders during this outbreak,” said Assemblyman McGuckin. “The strong financial penalties that would be imposed by our legislation should discourage people from hosting gatherings in violation of the prohibition during this crisis.”
According to the legislation, the host of any indoor or outdoor social gathering that exceeds the number permitted to gather will be penalized when an order intended is to prevent the transmission or spread of an infectious disease. The penalty would be sued for and collected by the Commissioner of Health, along with all costs associated with the commissioner’s enforcement action.
“To combat the spread of this disease, we must adhere to the Governor’s orders to stay at home and distance ourselves from our friends and family,” added Assemblyman Catalano. “We know that socially distancing is hard, but it’s critically necessary to prevent the uncontrolled spread of the coronavirus in a way that would overwhelm our hospitals and result in the unnecessary loss of life. We hope that a substantial fine will make individuals think twice if they are considering to host a party or have friends over.”
The trio pulled back on their bill earlier this year as COVID-19 cases decline and Governor Murphy started reopening New Jersey. Now, as these three enablers of Murphy’s power trip see a new rise in cases mirroring that of the spring, will they reintroduce their bill as Murphy once again sends the state into lockdown? We’ll be keeping a close on these three legislators who seek to punish you for exercising your rights under the constitution of the United States of America.