O’Scanlan Vows to Take the Rebellion a Few Steps Farther

Insider NJ's Jay Lassiter argues that while cannabis legalization in NJ is a long way away, expunging the records of people unfairly harmed by the war on drugs so that they can more meaningfully contribute to our shared society should be more important to lawmakers right now.

Talk about a rebellion in your backyard.

On Saturday night, Republican state Sen. Declan O’Scanlon tweeted a message urging the rank and file to defy Phil Murphy and take to the streets.

He elaborated thusly:

“Go outside your house! It’s OK, you can trust me! Look south/southeast … revel in that moon. We’re likely going to take this rebellion a few steps further next couple weeks. Get ready.”

O’Scanlon’s 13th legislative district covers Murphy’s hometown of Middletown. But before anyone grabs his musket or bayonet, let’s recognize that the rhetoric here is a bit suspect. Nobody needs anybody’s permission to leave the house. It’s not as if police down the block are taking notes. As all should know by now, everyone is permitted to patronage any number of essential businesses and also to visit parks and trails. Or even take a walk in the neighborhood and, yes, revel in the moonlight.

Still, O’Scanlon’s take sums up the feelings of many Republicans who think that after about two months, it’s time to start “reopening” the state.

If the governor was annoyed by the Saturday night rumblings of his hometown senator, he had calmed down by today’s briefing.

In fact, he called O’Scanlon a “good guy.”

But then he got to the facts. The governor noted that about 7,000 Monmouth County residents have gotten the virus and that 45 have died. He said losing that amount of county residents to the same illness a year ago would have been “unfathomable.”

Murphy added, “Let’s be responsible, man,” meaning that any grand reopening still has a ways to go.

The governor announced 59 additional deaths statewide today, but cautioned that the Monday count is generally low because it can take awhile to review all data from the weekend. But he stressed again one of his recent moves to restore normalcy – the reopening of parks on May 2. Murphy said that was a “big step” that has paid-off in light of the need for people to get exercise and fresh air.

While the governor said reviews so far have been basically good, there were some unsettling occurrences over this past weekend.

“We’d like to see a lot more face coverings,” Murphy said. Wearing such coverings is not legally required, but the governor gave the impression authorities have plans to recommend mask-wearing more strongly.

Another problem is not for the squeamish.

Patrick Callahan, the head of the State Police, said there have been too many cases of park-goers relieving themselves in water bottles and leaving them behind. Park rest rooms are closed.

Callahan said police and rangers will have “zero tolerance” for such behavior and he warned those visiting a park to “plan accordingly.” Sen. Bob Menendez joined today’s briefing and expressed hope that his bill to provide $500 billion in aid to local governments across the country may finally pass.

There is a Republican co-sponsor, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, but other than that, Menendez said only a small number of GOP senators are on board. He said he hoped momentum would build in the next week or so.

Here’s the bad news – Menendez and Cassidy unveiled their bill two weeks ago and not much has happened since.

This allowed Murphy to again bring up his “favorite” state, Kentucky, noting that Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, doesn’t seem to get the need for the feds to help states hit hard by the virus.

As Menendez put it, state residents “did not choose to contract the virus.”

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