HARTFORD, CT — A committee of 10 met Friday and voted to allow Gov. Ned Lamont to maintain his emergency powers under the public health emergency that was scheduled to expire next week.
The committee voted 6-4. The six Democratic legislators voted to extend the governor’s emergency powers and the four Republican legislators voted to get rid of them.
House Majority Leader Matt Ritter explained that the only thing the committee could do is “nullify” the governor’s emergency powers and “all the executive orders would be gone.”
House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said that wasn’t their intention. They weren’t looking to get rid of all the executive orders Lamont has signed since March 10. But they don’t believe he should maintain these powers for the next six months.
“This isn’t about getting rid of them. This is about adjusting to Connecticut in September, not March,” Klarides said.
“I understand we’re not as powerful as we usually are, but the governor has done a wonderful job,” Ritter added.
Democratic lawmakers said they’ve been consulted by the governor’s office regarding the executive orders, while Republican lawmakers feel they’ve been left out in the cold.
“I don’t believe any one party holds the power to run the state,” House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, said.
Aresimowicz said he doesn’t understand which executive orders the Republicans seem to object to.
“I’m just not sure what part and which one of the emergency orders we are so upset about,” Aresimowicz said
The number of executive orders has dwindled in the past three months. There were only three in August even though there were a total of nearly 70 issued since March. Aresimowicz said only 31% of the orders imposed something new and 69% relaxed statutes.
Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff said there’s a lot of discussion about process but his constituents only want to be kept safe and healthy.
“You can’t argue with the results over the last six months,” Duff said citing the low positivity rating.
“It really comes down to what are we doing to keep the citizens of the state of Connecticut safe and healthy,” Duff said.
Connecticut has one of the lowest rates of infection in the country and 85% of the economy has rebounded, Duff said.
Democratic lawmakers tried to make the issue about the executive order that mandates mask wearing.
Klarides said this is frustrating for her because that’s not what the Republicans are asking to happen when it comes to mask wearing or any other executive order.
She said they’re “not about taking away every executive order.”
Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano said that wouldn’t even be possible because there’s still the civil preparedness emergency in place to retain the executive orders. But Fasano also argued that the executive branch isn’t the only one that can protect the public.
“This legislature can keep us safe,” Fasano said.
He said the administration hasn’t communicated why it hasn’t moved from Phase 2 to Phase 3. Connecticut’s positivity rate is around or below 1%.
Fasano said the communication that would allow for the checks and balances between the executive and legislature isn’t there.
Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, D-Westport, said until there’s a vaccine this is not over.
He said the legislature is involved and has remained involved.
“Even though the governor may be getting all the attention, but the legislature is doing its job,” Steinberg said.
Sen. Heather Somers, R-Groton, said the legislature can try to have influence, but there’s only one person making decisions—the governor.
“I want to commend the governor. I think he’s done a good job to date, but going forward I think we need to look at this on a regional basis,” Somers said.
She said it’s also not fair to tie the hands of a new legislature by not allowing the extension to expire until February 9, 2021.
“We need to have checks and balances here in Connecticut,” Somers added.
Paul Mounds Jr., Lamont’s chief of staff, said they will be going over the executive orders with legislators voluntarily over the next few weeks.
It’s not something the administration has to do, but Mounds said they’re willing to have a discussion.