Testa to Democrats: What Took So Long to Challenge Governor on Dysfunction Department of Labor

March 3, 2022  Contact: Robbie Kenney / (609) 847-3600

Says Republicans Proposed a Solution in 2020

Senator Michael Testa today complimented the Senate’s unanimous approval of a bipartisan resolution calling on Governor Murphy to address ongoing unemployment issues but questioned why it took two years to finally act.

“I don’t understand what took so long,” said Testa (R-40). “Two years ago, Republicans proposed forcing the Governor’s hand to address problems within the Department of Labor. This is a good idea in 2022, but it was an even better idea in 2020.”

With the pandemic running wild and an eruption of unemployment claims pouring in on May 12, 2020, Testa and Republican colleague Michael Doherty called on Murphy to immediately reopen the Department of Labor’s unemployment centers and staff them with idle workers from other state agencies.

In-person unemployment services had been suspended on March 16, two months earlier, in response to the coronavirus.

“Once again, Republicans were ahead of the curve,” said Testa. “I commend my majority Democrat colleagues for finally rising up to send a strong message to the Administration that the embarrassing dysfunction within the Department of Labor cannot continue, but New Jersey residents shouldn’t have had to suffer this long waiting for the Legislature to say ‘enough is enough.’”

The resolution, SR-66, urges Governor Murphy to immediately address unemployment claim backlog and reopen State offices closed to public.

This week, Testa introduced legislation, S-2082, calling on the Department of Labor to ensure State unemployment offices reopen immediately and remain open during and after public health emergency.

Testa Responds to Murphy’s Delay of Vaccine Mandate for Corrections Officers

March 2, 2022  Contact: Brad Schnure / (609) 847-3600

Senator Michael Testa responded to Governor Phil Murphy’s announcement that the deadline for compliance with his vaccine mandate for workers in congregate living settings, including corrections officers, will be delayed until at least April 11.

“I guess Governor Murphy finally realized that enforcing his vaccine mandate and firing nearly 60% of our corrections officers isn’t a smart idea,” said Testa (R-1). “With the threat of COVID-19 rapidly disappearing in the rearview mirror, he should repeal his unnecessary vaccine mandates completely.”

As of two weeks ago, just 43% of corrections officers were vaccinated, according to a New Jersey Department of Corrections spokeswoman.

Testa has said repeatedly that the governor’s pandemic prison policies were putting both communities and corrections officers at risk.

Manufacturing Caucus Hosts Event with Alcoholic Beverage Manufacturers

February 24, 2022  Contact: Senate Republicans / (609) 847-3600

Today the bipartisan, bicameral Legislative Manufacturing Caucus met with the New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program (NJMEP) and alcoholic beverage manufacturers from throughout the state at Source Brewing in Colts Neck to discuss issues that the industry is currently facing.

The gathering consisted of a tour of the facility, a presentation on the obstacles the industry has faced in the last two years and a roundtable discussion to learn about the current issues manufacturers in the industry are tackling.

The event was hosted jointly by NJMEP and the New Jersey Business and Industry Association (NJBIA).

“Manufacturers across the State faced a plethora of obstacles these last two years due to COVID-19, and the alcoholic beverage industry is no different,” said Senator Linda Greenstein (D-Mercer/Middlesex), Caucus co-chair. “Today’s meeting was a great opportunity to meet with a sector that the Caucus had not yet interacted directly with, to hear the concerns they have about the future of their industry, and to take suggestions for future policy. Going forward, we are looking to work with the alcoholic beverage industry more so that this sector of manufacturing can be as successful as possible in New Jersey.”

Currently, close to 250,000 New Jerseyans work within the manufacturing sector, with the industry contributing over $50 billion to the States total Gross Domestic Product in 2020.

“While many people don’t think of them as such, small- and mid-size breweries, distilleries, and wineries, such as Source Brewing, comprise a rapidly growing segment of New Jersey’s manufacturing economy. Acknowledging how crucial manufacturing’s economic multiplier is to New Jersey, I am committed to working with the Legislative Manufacturing Caucus and the alcoholic beverage makers to craft a more conducive environment for this often-used but little understood sector of the manufacturing industry,” said Senator Michael Testa (R-Atlantic/Cape May/Cumberland), co-chair of the Caucus. “We all should raise a glass to these exciting enterprises for the jobs they create, the revenue they produce, and the enthusiasm they fuel.”

Today’s gathering marked the first Manufacturing Caucus meeting of the 2022-2023 Legislative Session.

First Legislative District Team Introduces Bills to Require Reopening of NJDOL Unemployment Offices or Cut Top Leaders Pay

February 22, 2022  Contact: Senate Republicans / (609) 847-3600

In an effort to put teeth into the repeated calls from thousands of New Jersey’s unemployed workers, the three members from the First Legislative District announced their legislation to require the reopening of Department of Labor and Workforce Development (NJDOL) state unemployment offices as soon as March 1, 2022, for in-person appointments or the personal pay of the department’s top leadership will be cut and used for a new fund for unemployed workers.

The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Michael Testa (R-1) and Assemblymen Antwan McClellan and Erik Simonsen (R-1), directs the Commissioner of Labor Robert Asaro-Angelo to reopen the facilities for in-person appointments.

If the state unemployment offices are not reopened by that date, under the bill, the total compensation of the commissioner, deputy commissioner, assistant commissioners, and the department’s chief of staff are to be reduced by 5 percent every two weeks, for the first month, and thereafter until all closed state unemployment offices are reopened. The funds collected from the pay reductions would be placed in a special fund in the Department of the Treasury to be known as the “Unemployed Workers Compensation Fund” to repay the filers who were harmed by the Department’s inaction.

“Teachers are back in classrooms, first responders are patrolling our streets, and medical professionals are in facilities caring for our most vulnerable. If they can serve out in the community, then so can Department of Labor employees,” said Sen. Testa (R-Vineland). “This failed system where Department employees work from their couch and get paid every two weeks is not working for all New Jerseyans. Commissioner Asaro-Angelo needs to do his job and order his employees back to work and this bill will incentivize him and his staff to do just that.”

“Our office has dealt with a countless number of people all dealing with the same issue, the failures of the NJDOL, and it is time to do something about it,” said Simonsen (R-Cape May). “We will continue to help our constituents because we will not leave them in their time of need, but at the same time, we need to get to the root of the issue, which is the NJDOL not being accountable for their constant self-created failures: Failures that only hurt already struggling New Jerseyans. We will make sure the NJDOL is accountable for those failures. We cannot let government agencies believe they are above being accountable for their actions. New Jerseyans deserve accountability from government agencies and their elected officials.”

The trio of lawmakers sent a letter in January asking when in-person appointments could be restarted and noted that the First District office staff and legislative offices across New Jersey have been working tirelessly to help increasingly desperate constituents who cannot access their unemployment benefits via the NJDOL’s failing system.

“Many issues that are taking anywhere from six to eight weeks to process could be resolved in six to eight minutes with the restoration of in-person services,” the legislators wrote in the letter.

These offices and One-Stop Centers were closed on March 18, 2020, more than 700 days ago, by order of Commissioner Asaro-Angelo. At that time, the release said that “operations are expected to reopen on March 30, 2020.” According to a recent news article, the Commissioner has said that “One-Stop Career Centers continue to function, but they are only open for in-person visits by appointment and most cases don’t need these centers to get answers to unemployment questions.”

The legislators believe that if the One-Stops are open for in-person appointments, the state unemployment offices should follow suit and reopen as well.

“People are fed up and need assistance, but the NJDOL continues to keep their doors closed,” stated McClellan (R-Ocean City). “The One-Stop centers are open, but New Jerseyans cannot access many of the needed NJDOL’s services at those locations. Schools, department stores, and other government offices are back open, yet the NJDOL has not budged, refusing to open its doors to the very people the department is supposed to help. The NJDOL’s unfair and unprofessional actions have hindered many New Jerseyans while creating a massive backlog of people waiting for services and benefits. They forget they are servants of the people, not the other way around. When a government agency performs in this matter, it is time for elected officials to stand up to lead the charge. I am incredibly proud that my fellow District One legislators are stepping up to do what needs to be done to hold the NJDOL accountable.”

The bill will be introduced early next week when the Legislature reconvenes.

Testa: NY Times Confirms Murphy’s Pandemic Decisions Guided by Polling, Not Science

February 9, 2022  Contact: Brad Schnure / (609) 847-3600

Senator Michael Testa said a new story by the New York Times confirmed that Governor Murphy’s decision to lift mask mandates was guided by political science, not medical science.

Governor Murphy insisted his decision to lift school mask mandates was influenced by nothing but public health data,” said Testa (R-1). “In truth, his announcement was driven by concerns over polling data and growing public outrage over his mandates as he prepares to run for president. Anyone who continues to think Governor Murphy isn’t playing politics with the pandemic is delusional.”

Following the governor’s announcement on Monday, Testa said the decision to end the school mask mandate was based on politics, not any change in public health data, which supported unmasking kids long ago.

Reporting by the New York Times supports Testa’s assertion. According to the Times, Governor Murphy was shocked by Republican gains in November and sought to learn what went wrong:

“Arranging a series of focus groups across the state to see what they had missed, Mr. Murphy’s advisers were struck by the findings: Across the board, voters shared frustrations over public health measures, a sense of pessimism about the future and a deep desire to return to some sense of normalcy,” the Times reported.

The Times story followed reporting yesterday by NJ.com that Daniel Bryan, one of the Murphy’s chief advisers, is leaving the Murphy administration to join First Lady Tammy Murphy in running a new political advocacy group and an associated political action committee to boost the governor’s national profile.

“Republicans in New Jersey have spent the past two years talking with people impacted by Governor Murphy’s pandemic policies and holding public hearings where his mandates and harm they cause was repeated to us over and over again,” said Testa. “The governor, meanwhile, has been completely out of touch and stuck in a liberal echo chamber where no amount of mandates, restrictions, and virtue signaling was too much. It’s only now that he’s considering a presidential run that Governor Murphy actually cares what people think.”

Testa urged New Jerseyans to seize the opportunity by keeping the pressure on Governor Murphy to lift more mandates and restrictions.

“Governor Murphy has finally started to pay attention to New Jerseyans’ outrage, and he’s worried,” added Testa. “He’s taken power, he’s taken parental rights, he’s taken vaccine choice, and much more from us over the past two years. Now that he’s listening, we need to keep the pressure on and keep telling him to ‘Give It Back.’”

Senate Republicans launched the “Give It Back” initiative last week to give New Jerseyans an opportunity to tell Governor Phil Murphy in a unified voice to give back everything he has taken from them over the past two years, including emergency powers and parental rights to make mask decisions for their children.

More than 4,000 New Jerseyans have already told Governor Murphy to “Give It Back” at www.GiveItBack.us.


Testa: Murphy Should Lift School Mask Mandate TODAY

Senator Michael Testa (R-1) said Governor Phil Murphy should lift his school mask mandate today, not a month from now:

“While this is welcome news for students and their parents, I question the timing of the announcement by the Governor. Why isn’t the school mask mandate ending today?

“The answer is simple, this decision is guided by political science. If this was truly guided by ‘the science’, this arbitrary mandate would have been lifted 23 months ago, and the Governor knows that.

“I have been calling for an end to school mask mandates since last summer and the science that we had at that time supported my call.

“For anyone who takes the Governor at his word, we must remember that when restaurants were ready to fully open on July 4, 2020, the Governor abruptly retreated on his promise to re-open the state and not go backward. This mistake cost small businesses and their families millions in investments. How can we be so sure that he won’t flop on ending the school mask mandate once the furor dies down?

“Bottom line, let’s unmask our kids, TODAY, and #GiveItBack.”