HARTFORD, CT — The House acted Tuesday to both extend Gov. Ned Lamont’s pandemic-related emergency authority until July 20 and expand the legislature’s ability to curtail those executive powers through a temporary framework ending next March.
Lawmakers passed two bills related to emergency executive powers during their Tuesday session. One, approved by all but one Democrat on a mostly party-line 94-53 vote, would allow Lamont to continue to exercise emergency authority to enforce a shrinking number of COVID-related executive orders beyond the May 20 deadline. Rep. Pat Boyd, D-Pomfret, joined Republicans in voting against it.
The second bill, passed with unanimous support, makes some temporary changes to give the legislature more oversight of the executive branch during emergency declarations and creates a task force to consider permanent changes to the underlying laws.
If approved by the Senate, the bill would require a vote of the full legislature to extend the governor’s emergency authority and also give legislative leaders the ability to veto specific executive orders if they do not approve of them.
“So it’s a very different mechanism for the next nine — 10 months,” House Speaker Matt Ritter told reporters.
Although the bill passed the House with broad support, Ritter said legislative leaders were not comfortable codifying it permanently until the proposed task force had a chance to study the issue.
“We feel pretty good where we are with COVID so I think we’re more flexible now than maybe we were a year ago, but we just don’t know what the next emergency is going to be. We want to have the best minds who really deal with emergency management spaces to give us some advice before we pass a bill next year and codify it,” he said.
House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora said House Republicans had long pushed for more legislative oversight during emergency declarations.
“That I think is a significant victory for us,” Candelora said. “The legislature is now going to have a say on when declarations are extended.”
Tuesday’s extension of Lamont’s authority through July 20 was a partisan vote. Rep. Mike D’Agostino, D-Hamden, said it was “simply prudent” to extend the authority beyond the end of the legislative session, even as Lamont continues to relax many of the orders issued under the declarations.
“If we were to end those declarations now we would jeopardize millions of dollars in federal funding including up to $20 million in additional SNAP assistance program funds,” D’Agostino said.
Republicans opposed the extension, some specifically objected to the ongoing state moratorium on evictions. Rep. Tom O’Dea, R-New Canaan, said the state had “trampled on landlord rights over the course of the pandemic.”
“There’s going to be a tsunami of evictions in the coming months like we have never seen before,” O’Dea said.
Rep. Nicole Klarides-Ditria, R-Derby, questioned why the legislature continues to opt to extend Lamont’s authority even while it is in session. She called the extension “shameful” and embarrassing.
“Why? We’re here. Look around. Doing the people’s work since January,” she said. “The governor’s been bragging about opening the state of Connecticut and in a week or so we’ll be more open than we’ve been in a year plus. Businesses, restaurants, sporting events, you name it. I say Amen to that. Yet somehow the majority in this legislature feels we can not do the job we were elected to do until almost August of 2021 of this year.”