File photo of Gov. Ned Lamont Credit: Hugh McQuaid / CTNewsJunkie

After nearly two years and hundreds of executive orders, the emergency declarations which have served as the basis for Gov. Ned Lamont’s authority to single-handedly enact or suspend laws were set to expire Tuesday. 

The governor first declared public health and civil preparedness emergencies on March 10, 2020 in response to the first cases of the COVID-19 virus. The legislature extended that authority six times. Now, more than 700,000 cases and 10,000 coronavirus-related deaths later, that executive power was scheduled to lapse. 

“Today marks a new phase in our state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Lamont said in a statement. “We are by no means declaring mission accomplished in our efforts to stop the spread of this virus, but we are acknowledging that this is a long-term situation that will need a long-term response.”

Although the governor’s emergency management was initially met with bipartisan support as Connecticut and its neighboring states struggled to contain the virus, Republicans increasingly opposed Lamont’s emergency powers as the months wore on. 

Tuesday’s expiration may be a hollow victory for some of the most ardent opponents of state-mandated virus mitigation policies. The legislature took two actions in the last week to assume control of state COVID policy: it declared its own emergency, ensuring Connecticut will continue to qualify for enhanced federal reimbursements, and passed a law that codified roughly a dozen ongoing emergency orders. 

Lamont signed that bill Tuesday, which among other things, preserved the authority of his education commissioner to set masking policies for Connecticut school children until June 30. Despite the administration’s assurance that a longstanding school mask mandate would expire on Feb. 28, leaving local districts to adopt their own policies, opponents pushed unsuccessfully for a mechanism for parents to opt their children out of such rules. 

In his statement Tuesday, the governor said he expected to continue to collaborate with the legislature on public health policies. 

“Going forward, while our authority to issue these emergency orders is expiring, I have no doubt that we will be able to faithfully continue collaborating with the legislature to enact policies that keep our state safe to the greatest extent possible,” Lamont said.