Four New Jersey State Legislators File Suit To Invalidate Executive Order Allowing Needle-Exchange Programs
Four New Jersey state legislators on Monday filed a lawsuit seeking to invalidate an executive order signed by former New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey (D) that allows needle-exchange programs to operate in the state to reduce the spread of HIV and other bloodborne diseases among injection drug users, the Newark Star-Ledger reports (Livio, Newark Star-Ledger, 12/14). McGreevey -- who resigned his position on Nov. 15 -- in October signed an executive order allowing up to three cities in the state to establish needle-exchange programs. The order declares a "state of emergency" until Dec. 31, 2005, and authorizes the Department of Health and Senior Services to administer needle-exchange programs in cities that meet specific requirements. However, an opinion issued last month by the state Office of Legislative Services said that McGreevey had "no authority" to issue the order (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 11/18). The legislators -- state Sens. Ronald Rice (D) and Tom Kean (R) and Assembly members Joe Pennacchio (R) and Eric Munoz (R) -- in the suit claim that McGreevey "overstepped his responsibilities and constitutional powers," according to the Star-Ledger (Newark Star-Ledger, 12/14). Pennacchio said that the legislators decided to file the suit after OLS issued its opinion that HIV prevalence in the state may not have constituted an emergency under the state's Disaster Control Act, the AP/Newark Star-Ledger reports.
"The governor in signing that executive order exceeded his authority," Michael Lafferty, the attorney representing the legislators, said, adding, "He usurped the power of the Legislature" (Bell, AP/Newark Star-Ledger, 12/11). Kean said that the "controversial" needle-exchange programs are an "issue best left to the living democracy of the Senate and the Assembly," adding, "It is too important for one man's opinion to prevail without the checks and balances provided by the Constitution" (Newark Star-Ledger, 12/14). A bill to authorize needle-exchange programs in the state passed the state Assembly earlier this year but failed to pass the state Senate, according to the AP/Star-Ledger (AP/Newark Star-Ledger, 12/11). Acting N.J. Gov. Richard Codey (D) on Monday said the lawsuit will not stop him from implementing McGreevey's executive order, according to the Star-Ledger (Newark Star-Ledger, 12/14).