The Senate gave final passage Tuesday to a measure granting the legislature the ability to review and modify Gov. Ned Lamont’s plans for spending $2.7 billion in federal COVID aid.
The Senate approved the bill unanimously one week after the House passed it without opposition. The legislation requires the governor to submit a spending plan to the leaders of the legislature’s Democratic majority, who would refer the plan to the Appropriations Committee for approval or modification and ultimately a vote by the General Assembly.
Senators from both parties supported the bill as a step towards reasserting legislative control of the state’s purse strings following a year during which Lamont operated with largely autonomous authority through the pandemic. Democrats asked that the bill be passed on the Senate’s consent calendar with little discussion.
“I think this is a good step in the right direction,” Sen. Cathy Osten, co-chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee, said.
Republicans praised the bill and placed it in opposition with plans this week to extend Lamont’s emergency authority for an additional 30 days past its scheduled April 20 expiration. Senate Minority Leader Kevin Kelly, R-Stratford, said it was hypocritical to send both messages.
“Why can we take control here when we’re getting federal money, but we can’t take control of the responsibilities of government for the people we represent? There’s a measure of hypocrisy there,” Kelly said.
“This bill is good because it’s a start but by no means the end,” he said.
When the House passed the measure last week, Senate President Martin Looney released a joint statement with House Speaker Matt Ritter saying it would ensure cooperation between Lamont and the legislature.
“It is imperative that the Legislative Branch and the Executive Branch continue to work closely as federal guidance inevitably shifts,” the legislative leaders said.
The governor’s chief of staff, Paul Mounds, said the legislation was “consistent” with how the administration had been operating throughout the pandemic.
“As the governor has said for weeks, he is supportive and encourages discussion and collaboration with leadership in the General Assembly on decisions as we appear to be seeing more light at the end of the tunnel as vaccine distribution continues at the current rapid pace,” Mounds said last week.