The Assembly Appropriations Committee this afternoon passed a bill that would enable the assessment of a fine of $500* of someone who enters or remains in a store or mercantile retail establishment without an affixed, anti-COVID-19 mask.
“I happily vote yes for this measure,” said Assemblyman Herb Conaway (D-7).
Republicans vociferously expressed their opposition to the bill.
They included Assemblyman Jay Webber (R-26), Assemblyman Brian Bergen (R-25) and Assemblyman Kevin J. Rooney (R-40).
Webber said the bill wouldn’t crack the top 20 of real priorities on the minds of regular New Jerseyans and expressed his expectation of a bill that would address property tax relief.
Government needs to trust citizens even amid the seige of COVID-19, he said.
“I don’t even know why we’re considering this,” said Bergen.
Democrats, including Assemblyman Gary Schaer (D-36), Assemblywoman Gabriela Mosquera (D-4), and Committee Chairman John Burzichelli (D-3) all voted in favor of the bill, but made a point of noting that they might oppose the bill on the floor.
“We might be overly legislating, but we need to have more faith in our police officers,” said Schaer.
A medical doctor and chair of the Assembly Health and Human Services Committee, Conaway defended the bill as commonsense, noting that masks have protected people from palgues since medieval times.
*Editor’s Note: The original measure would have assessed a disorderly person’s offense, which lawmakers changed to a $500 fine.