WESTFIELD, NJ — The state Assembly’s minority leader is calling for legislative hearings on reopening the state.

Assemblyman Jon Bramnick, R-Westfield, on Tue May 12 said decisions on reopening New Jersey should not be made behind closed doors.

“I’m deeply concerned that we don’t have enough information flowing out of Trenton to answer the questions of the people, so we need to start immediately virtual hearings run by the legislature,” Bramnick said in a call with reporters.

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Bramnick said that epidemiologists, frontline medical workers and other experts should testify at the public hearings.

“This needs to be a public debate, not a private debate,” said Bramnick, who called Gov. Phil Murphy’s daily COVID-19 press briefings “very, very limited and very, very repetitious.”

On April 28, Murphy created a 21-member commission charged with advising his administration on the timing of and preparation for New Jersey’s recovery from COVID-19. Murphy has also created a Restart and Recovery Advisory Council to advise on economic matters.

It is an approach that Bramnick disputes. “I’d rather see elected representatives of people debating this in public than hand-chosen individuals,” he said.

Citing concerns about reopening from New Jersey’s Senate president, Bramnick said, the issue is not a partisan one.

“I don’t believe the issue is partisan because Steve Sweeney, who is a Democrat, has raised some of the same issues,” Bramnick said.

Should the hearings come to fruition, the assemblyman predicts, there would be an audience.

“We’ve had some boring hearings in the state of New Jersey,” Bramnick said. “We’ve had hundreds of hours of boring hearings. We could have some hearings that people would really be interested to listen to.”

At his press briefing Tuesday, Murphy reiterated his focus on data as the statewide death toll rose to 9,508, and officials announced plans for expanding testing and contact tracing.

“We are going to be guided by data, not by politics,” Murphy said. “We must. We have no choice.”

Asked about Bramnick's call for hearings on reopening the state, Murphy said, he frequently communicates with the legislature. The governor said he plans to continue that communication including with a leadership meeting set for Wednesday to discuss budget funding and appropriations.

“The communication is high, and the respect for what they bring to this as opposed to what we may bring to this is as it should be,” Murphy said.

Reopening New Jersey, he said, would happen gradually.

“Steps we take will be statewide steps,” Murphy said. “Some of them will be more deeply felt in different parts of the state.”

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