Following a Thursday meeting with Democratic leaders in the General Assembly, Gov. Ned Lamont said he would ask the entire legislature to vote on extending his pandemic-related emergency authority past its scheduled expiration date next month.
The governor has been operating with increased authority under emergency declarations as a result of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. In recent weeks, he had suggested he would allow his emergency authority to lapse on April 20.
He met with Democratic legislative leaders to discuss codifying some of the executive orders he has issued. At a news briefing afterward, he said there were important reasons to seek an extension for some of his emergency authority.
“Look, there’s a variety of things in those emergency orders that are really important to continue,” he said.
By maintaining an emergency declaration, Lamont said the state will continue to qualify for federal reimbursement through the Federal Emergency Management Agency. He also pointed to the likelihood that vaccination efforts will continue throughout the year, especially if a vaccine is eventually approved for people under the age of 16.
The governor said the extension may be shorter than previous continuations of his emergency powers. He speculated it may be between 30 and 60 days, instead of several months.
“We’re talking to leadership on both sides of the aisle to find the right way to go forward, but it won’t be open-ended as it was before but [it will] still give us some of that maneuverability so we can keep you safe,” he said. “We need some more time.”
This time, the governor said he would seek approval from the entire House and Senate, rather than the committee of 10 leaders that approved an extension of his authority in September. Lamont later extended the authority again in January without legislative interference.
House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora, R- North Branford, said Thursday he expects that there may be resistance in his caucus to extending the governor’s emergency power further.
“I don’t think my members are going to be too happy about extending powers so the legislature can continue to pass reckless legislation and the governor is left to manage the pandemic. We want to be more of an active participant,” he said.
In January, Candelora and Senate Minority Leader Kevin Kelly requested that extensions be limited to 30 days and considered by the full legislature.
Although the governor’s executive orders have withstood multiple legal challenges over the past year, a Superior Court judge issued an opinion last week suggesting the legislative branch had an obligation to exert greater oversight of the executive branch’s emergency actions.
Lamont said his legal counsel, Nora Dannehy, recommended the entire legislature vote on the next extension.
“She just thought if we can get the legislature to weigh in and say, given vaccinations, given the other imperatives out there, if they would all weigh in and state this, it would probably be clearer,” he said. “It probably lends a little more clarity, given that opinion, sure.”
On Wednesday, House Speaker Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, told reporters that legislative leaders might look to approve a limited extension.
“We’re still trying to come up with the framework for it. It’s not just going to be like it switches on or off, but I think what our goal is to really limit, as much as possible, those things that the governor needs to do by executive order and codify or just let lapse the vast majority of these,” Ritter said.
Lamont said he plans to meet with Republican leaders next week.