HARTFORD, CT – Democratic legislative leaders said Monday evening that they have no problem with extending Gov. Ned Lamont’s emergency powers until April 20 – seventy days beyond their current expiration date of February 9.
“We have agreed to extend the Governor’s emergency declaration until April 20th,” House Speaker Matt Ritter and Senate President Martin Looney said in a statement Monday.
“Addressing the pandemic is larger than any one branch of government – Governor Lamont has worked with legislators to keep us all safe, respond to developments from Washington, and keep our economy going,” the two Democratic leaders said. “A pandemic team with an unparalleled level of expertise has been assembled by the governor’s office and prematurely revoking emergency authority would disrupt Connecticut’s ability to respond to COVID and distribute the vaccine.”
Lamont confirmed at the afternoon briefing that he will ask for an extension of his emergency powers as he had anticipated, seeking that extension until April 20. He made the announcement as he confirmed the presence of eight cases of highly-infectious variants of the COVID-19 virus in the state.
Republican legislative leaders don’t believe Lamont’s power should be extended until April 20, but it’s unlikely they will be able to stop it.
“In our view, the continued exercise of emergency powers has become a matter of convenience, rather than a matter of emergency,” Rep. Vincent Candelora, R-North Branford, and Sen. Kevin Kelly, R-Stratford, said in a letter.
The two suggested allowing an extension of Lamont’s executive power only until March 1. They want any future emergency declarations limited to no more than 30 days at a time, and that extensions be approved through a vote of the full legislature. They also want to lift the restriction on capacity at places of worship to greater than 100, if social distancing can be followed.
“It’s really important that we be able to operate with relative quickness,” Lamont said.
He said they have to figure out by Feb. 9 which of the executive orders continue or “if we didn’t do the emergency powers now, they could all eventually stop.”
The committee of 10 legislative leaders could meet if they didn’t want to renew Lamont’s powers, but they don’t need to meet if they want to allow his executive powers to continue. The committee met last September and voted to extend his powers to Feb. 9. The committee includes the six legislative leaders from the House and Senate and the co-chairs and ranking members of the Public Health Committee.
Paul Mounds, Lamont’s chief of staff, said the administration has not put forward a new executive order for at least a month and a half.
“It just shows that the emergency orders that we have in place has allowed this state to function under this public health emergency,” Mounds said.
He said most of the executive orders, or 66%, were actually enacted to relax a restriction or existing state law.
Lamont said without the executive orders they would be unable to set up places like Rentschler Field in East Hartford as a vaccine distribution site.
Mounds said the extension will provide clarity for the people of Connecticut.
“When we are talking about quick public health decisions – vaccines, masks, crowd restrictions – we believe executive action is the proper path,” Ritter and Looney said. “But any action that seeks to spend taxpayer dollars, must go through the legislature. We have had very fruitful conversations with the Governor and his staff and we believe that we are all looking to work together for Connecticut.”