FILE - NJ Tom Kean 1-15-2019

New Jersey Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr., R-Westfield, addresses reporters Jan. 15, 2019, in Trenton.

Republicans expanding inquiry into COVID-19 response

Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean, R-Union, and Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick are expanding their inquiry into Gov. Phil Murphy administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Since the majority party has refused our many calls to act, we had no choice but to move forward with independent hearings,” Kean said in a news release. “We’re glad to have our Assembly Republican colleagues join us in an expanded effort and remain hopeful that legislative Democrats will realize the importance of pursuing oversight in a bipartisan manner as we have requested.”

Lawmakers call for cancellation of standardized testing

A growing chorus of lawmakers wants Gov. Phil Murphy to cancel standardized testing this year.

The lawmakers support the New Jersey Education Association’s call for the cancellation, saying forcing schoolchildren to take standardized tests this year would be an unnecessary burden.

“I don’t know what of value would be gained by forcing students to take standardized tests when their class schedules have been disrupted for the past year and will continue to be disrupted because of the Covid-19 virus,” Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce, R-Morris, a member of the Joint Committee on Public Schools, said in a news release.

Legislation would end mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent offenses

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 7-0 to advance S-3456, which would end mandatory minimum sentences for all nonviolent offenses. The bill follows up on the “blueprint for reform” the New Jersey Criminal Sentencing and Disposition Commission provided.

“Sentencing reforms are a crucial piece of the greater effort to bring more social justice to the legal system and to society,” state Sen. Sandra Cunningham, D-Hudson, said in a news release. “Judicial discretion is needed to best determine the appropriate level of punishment. We have to return decision-making to the courts for matching an individual’s punishment to account for the nature and circumstances of the crime.”

Legislature approves bill to create Government Efficiency and Regulatory Review Commission

The state Senate approved A-4810/S-441 to establish the Government Efficiency and Regulatory Review Commission to “improve government efficiency and reduce damaging regulations.”

The bill heads to Gov. Phil Murphy for his signature.

“With the commission’s help, we can ease the impact of restrictive government regulation in the state,” state Sen. Steve Oroho, R-Franklin, said in a news release. “...The overwhelming glut of onerous laws and rules are responsible for our State’s reputation as unfriendly to business. By targeting and eliminating the most damaging examples of counter-productive bureaucratic overreach, we can rebuild our competitive edge and restore New Jersey’s position as an economic powerhouse.”

– The Center Square