Four New Jersey State Legislators Drop Suit To Invalidate Executive Order Allowing Needle-Exchange Programs
Four New Jersey lawmakers on Thursday withdrew their lawsuit seeking to invalidate an executive order signed by former New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey (D) that would have allowed needle-exchange programs to operate in the state because the order has expired, the AP/Newark Star-Ledger reports (Delli Santi, AP/Newark Star-Ledger, 1/19). McGreevey -- who resigned his position in November 2004 -- in October 2004 signed an executive order allowing up to three cities in the state to establish needle-exchange programs. The order declared a "state of emergency" until Dec. 31, 2005, and authorized the Department of Health and Senior Services to administer needle-exchange programs in cities that meet specific requirements. An opinion issued by the state Office of Legislative Services in November 2005 said that McGreevey had "no authority" to issue the order. The four state legislators -- state Sens. Ronald Rice (D) and Tom Kean (R) and Assembly members Joe Pennacchio (R) and Eric Munoz (R) -- in December 2004 filed the lawsuit to invalidate the order, claiming that McGreevey had "overstepped his responsibilities and constitutional powers" (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 12/14/04). The Mercer County, N.J., Superior Court Appellate Division in June 2005 issued a temporary injunction to halt the launch of the needle-exchange programs in the two cities that applied for them just weeks before they were set to begin. The programs were postponed pending arguments before an appellate panel that would rule on their legality (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/22/05).
Rationale for Dropping Suit
Pennacchio said the lawmakers withdrew the lawsuit because they did not want to take up the court's time with an issue that is no longer timely, but he added that he still opposes needle-exchange programs (AP/Newark Star-Ledger, 1/19). The lawmakers issued a joint statement saying that, while they are dropping their current lawsuit, they will file it again if Gov. Jon Corzine (D) circumvents the state Legislature and authorizes a needle-exchange program by executive order (Baldwin, Asbury Park Press, 1/20). Corzine in September 2005 said that he supports needle-exchange programs, adding that such programs must be created with proper oversight (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/14/05). Bills authorizing needle-exchange programs in the state are pending in both houses of the state Legislature (AP/Newark Star-Ledger, 1/19).