Lawmakers to meet with Lamont on future of his COVID orders
State lawmakers have begun combing through the dozens of executive orders signed by Gov. Ned Lamont over the past year during the pandemic, trying to determine which should be extended and which need to be enacted in state law as Connecticut continues to battle COVID-19.
Democratic House Speaker Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, said leaders of the House of Representatives and Senate plan to meet Thursday with the Democratic governor’s administration to discuss how best to proceed.
“There’s a lot of executive orders that need a lot of information from these commissioners, quite frankly, all about what needs to be extended or codified,” Ritter said on Tuesday. “We’re going through what is a very complicated, long, arduous process.”
Republican legislative leaders, who in January opposed extending Lamont’s emergency powers until April 20, said they have not yet been invited to the meeting on Thursday. The GOP at that time suggested Lamont’s powers should be extended until March 1, so long as there was a “metric-based case” for each particular order, and that lawmakers could discuss which orders could be codified through a vote of the General Assembly.
That, however, did not happen, said House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora, R-North Branford.
“We were completely ignored at that request. In fact, I think we were accused of being science deniers and not taking this pandemic seriously,” Candelora said. “And now six weeks later, they’re scrambling to try to figure out how to transition out of this executive power, which was what we had put on the table back in January. We were looking for a pathway to that transition.”
Candelora said he’s glad Democrats are discussing how best to proceed with Lamont’s executive orders, even though it’s “late in the process” as lawmakers are focused on trying to craft a new two-year state budget and administer federal COVID relief funds.
“The timing is horrendous. But we want to have that conversation,” said Candelora, who believes the GOP should be part of the talks with Lamont and his administration. Republicans created a 60-page document that outlines which executive orders they believe should be modified, eliminated or kept in place.
Lamont has been slowly relaxing some of his executive orders. Beginning on Friday, for example, capacity limits will be eliminated on restaurants, libraries, museums, aquariums, gyms, retail stores, hair salons and churches. Restaurants will still have to close their dining rooms at 11 p.m. and seat no more than eight people per table.
Movie theaters and performing arts venues will still be limited to 50% capacity. Bars that do not serve food will not be allowed to reopen.
In other coronavirus-related news:
The House of Representatives on Tuesday voted unanimously in favor of legislation that requires Lamont to provide top legislative leaders with recommendations for spending the approximately $2.6 billion Connecticut expects to receive in state COVID relief funds from the new American Rescue Plan.
The legislation creates an unusual process that ultimately gives the General Assembly’s Appropriations Committee until May 16 to report their approval or modifications to Lamont’s proposal, if any, to the leaders.
“I wanted to make sure that we as a group, we are a team addressing the Coronavirus American Rescue Fund and that all of us are participating in making the decisions and supporting what we need to do with these dollars,” said Rep. Toni Walker, D-New Haven, the House chair of the Appropriations Committee.
Rep. Mike France, R-Ledyard, the top House Republican on the committee, said he’s pleased the legislation also requires Lamont’s budget office to provide legislators with an accounting of Connecticut spent earlier federal COVID aid.
The bill now awaits final legislative approval by the state Senate.
BY THE NUMBERS
Lamont’s administration reported Tuesday it has been notified of 853 more probable or confirmed COVID-19 cases since Monday. Meanwhile, the number of COVID-associated deaths increased by 11, to a total of 7,799.
Over the past two weeks, the rolling average number of daily new cases has decreased in Connecticut by 226.6, a drop of 21.7%, according to researchers from Johns Hopkins.