HARTFORD, CT – Gov. Ned Lamont filed the paperwork for a five-month extension of the public health and civil preparedness emergency Tuesday so he can retain his executive powers in the middle of a pandemic. But some lawmakers want more checks and balances.
Republican legislative leaders stood on the front steps of the state Capitol Wednesday and called on their Democratic colleagues to vote on whether they should continue Lamont’s emergency powers.
“We think it is time the legislature step up and provide a voice,” Rep. Vincent Candelora, R-North Branford, said.
A committee of 10 lawmakers, including all six legislative leaders and the chairs and ranking members of the Public Health Committee, could overrule Lamont’s request for an extension. However, Republicans would need two Democratic lawmakers to join them in voting to overturn the extension.
“This is about our democracy and our representative form of government,” Rep. Bill Petit, R-Plainville, said.
Petit is one of the ranking members of the Public Health Committee and one the committee of 10.
Earlier in the day at an unrelated press conference, Lamont said things were going really fast in April and May and they were doing their best to keep legislative leaders informed about the executive orders.
Lamont has signed more than 70 executive orders since March 10 when he initially declared the two emergencies.
Lamont said his staff has kept the legislature informed “every step of the way.”
“Right now I think we’re led by science,” Lamont said. “So I welcome everybody’s input but rather than make it into more of a political process. I think what I’d love to do is lead with the science and then keep the legislature involved closely all along the way.”
Republicans say they have not been involved in conversations about executive orders.
“We’ve been told things 10 minutes before the press is alerted to issues,” Candelora said. “That’s a problem. And if they believe collaboration should occur, don’t just say it—do it.”
Candelora said the power that Lamont is taking right now through some of these executive orders is well beyond the scope of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We need to sit down and have a conversation about what authority is necessary for the purposes of addressing the pandemic,” Candelora said.
House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said they never agreed with the governor on Monday to extend the emergency powers.
“We realize we are still in a public health emergency,” Klarides said. “But unfortunately, his executive orders are too broad. They cover health issues, they cover economic issues, they cover election issues and so by extending these orders in this broad fashion we are allowing the governor to make unilateral decisions by fiat and that’s the problem.”
House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz said they’re unlikely to call a meeting to vote on overturning the emergency powers.
“The legislature really is a deliberative body. It’s not a body that’s meant to run the state of Connecticut,” he said.
He said right now Connecticut needs to “follow the science” and let the governor make the quick decisions he needs to make.
“We’re one of the top states in the country. Why do we want to mess with that?” he added.