Pennacchio Urges Democrat Colleagues to Heed Calls for Legislative Investigation of Veterans Homes
As a crucial federal agency began withholding payments to the troubled Menlo Park veterans home where almost 100 residents succumbed to COVID, Senator Joe Pennacchio today renewed calls on Senate Democrats to support a legislative investigation of state-run veterans homes.
“My Democrat colleagues have consistently turned a blind eye to efforts to get to the bottom of issues that plagued our veterans homes and resulted in hundreds of unnecessary deaths since the start of the pandemic,” said Pennacchio (R-26), who has led the charge calling for a comprehensive legislative investigation since May 2020.
“Clearly, the Legislature’s failure to do an investigation earlier was a big mistake. A timely review could have yielded answers to help make facilities safer. Instead, there have been new outbreaks, veterans are still dying, and the feds have cut funding,” Pennacchio said.
The Senator noted growing support for a legislative inquiry of the continuing failures at State-run veterans homes and urged Democrats to get on board.
“A Star-Ledger editorial blasted the Governor for stonewalling a veterans home investigation, the veterans home whistleblower said he supports our effort, and Congressman Bill Pascrell called for fellow Democrats to work to ‘get to the bottom of this rot,’” Pennacchio said. “I don’t know what more it will take to convince Senate Democrats see the light.”
Pennacchio first began efforts to form a special legislative investigative committee with subpoena power more than 2 ½ years ago through the introduction of SR-68 in the 2020-21 legislative session. On five separate occasions, the Democratic majority blocked Pennacchio’s efforts to bring his resolution up for a vote by the Senate.
When the full Senate convenes again in three weeks, Pennacchio will make a sixth attempt to advance the resolution, now SR-32 in the current legislative session.
“The postmortem on the veterans home tragedy is long overdue. This is about lives and common decency, not partisan politics,” Pennacchio said. “We’re going to give our Democrat colleagues another opportunity to step up and do the right thing.”
The Senate Republican caucus wrote to Senate President Nicholas Scutari last week urging the Democratic Majority to stop obstructing a legislative investigation.
“In addition to ignoring our many requests, we note with dismay that the Majority has actively blocked our efforts to bring resolutions for a vote to form an investigative committee. As a result of the Majority’s repeated refusal to act – either on our proposals or any other – serious problems in our veterans homes remain unresolved,” stated the letter, signed by Senate Republican Leader Steven Oroho and every member of the caucus, including Pennacchio.