Lawmakers to consider extending Lamont’s COVID-19 powers
Connecticut lawmakers will once again consider whether Gov. Ned Lamont’s emergency declarations first issued in March of 2020 during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic should be extended.
The Democratic governor has asked the General Assembly to renew his declarations of public health and civil preparedness emergencies through Sept. 30, noting he is only seeking to extend 11 executive orders. That’s compared to a high of more than 300 at one point during the crisis.
“These orders are still needed to protect the public and continue critical measures to provide healthcare access and economic relief and respond to evolving changes,” Lamont wrote in a recent email to state lawmakers. He noted they are “narrowly targeted to achieve specific goals” that would be unachievable given current state laws and regulations that didn’t originally contemplate a pandemic.
This list includes orders requiring face masks in certain settings, providing tenants additional time to repay back rent, and allowing state-owned commuter lots to be used for vaccination clinics — a new initiative that’s scheduled to launch on July 30. Also, several federal funding sources for food, housing and other initiatives require emergency declarations to remain in place, he said.
Members of the House of Representatives were informed Monday that they will return for a special session on Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. The Senate is also scheduled to vote Wednesday. The two chambers, controlled by Democrats, are expected to approve the governor’s request.
Conservative Republicans, however, have been pushing back. They contend his request is unwarranted, given the progress Connecticut has made with the pandemic. An estimated 200 people turned out for a protest at the state Capitol on Monday afternoon. Some carried American flags and waved signs with slogans like “Stop King Ned” and “Unmask Our Kids,” a reference to required mask-wearing in schools. The list of speakers included GOP lawmakers and businessman Bob Stefanowski, Lamont’s former Republican rival in the 2018 election.
“For more than a year, Connecticut residents complied with the rules and dutifully stayed home, wore masks and socially distanced, yet now, when more than 60% of the population is vaccinated, businesses are returning to normal and the facts clearly show a substantial reduction in infection, transmission, hospitalization and death, the governor is trying to mislead the public by contending the threat is still so grave he needs to retain near-unilateral control of the state,” said Rep. Mark Anderson, R-Granby, in a written statement.
Todd Murphy, a spokesman for the House Democrats, said the Democratic leaders “feel good” about granting the extension because of the bipartisan legislation that was passed in May that allows top legislative leaders to reject any executive orders enacted by Lamont.
Meanwhile, lawmakers are expected to hold a separate session later in the month to decide whether to try and override Lamont’s veto of a bill that would have limited when isolated confinement or seclusion is used in Connecticut prisons. It’s questionable whether there will be an override attempt.
When he issued his veto, Lamont also signed an executive order to increase “out of cell time” for all incarcerated individuals, including those in “restrictive status.” Advocates, however, say it falls far short.