HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Governor Ned Lamont declared a health and civil preparedness emergency last March when the COVID-19 pandemic began. His powers have been extended several times. Will they be extended again? What role should the legislature have in a pandemic?
The law on the books that allows his declaration hasn’t been updated for more than a decade.
State Representative Vin Candelora says, “That role is to set more permanent policy and the temporary emergency measures are really more appropriate for the executive branch.”
But who declares the emergency and how long should that power last?
Connecticut law is written that the Chief Executive can do that on their own. It was put in place when former Governor Jodi Rell was handing an outbreak of swine flu.
House Speaker Matt Ritter says no one could have predicted a pandemic of these proportions.
“I think we all agree the legislature can’t enact individual emergency orders in a quick time frame when we aren’t in session. It’s a reality check of our legislative process.”
Right now, the governor has the power to create executive orders. The legislature can reject them. A committee of 10 is the check-and-balance on how long the executive can rule under these special powers.
The speaker of the House tells News 8 Chief Political Correspondent Jodi Latina under a new law that will change: “That committee of 10 would go away there would be full legislative votes.”
Will the legislature cap the length of time on those powers? Leaders say that’s still under negotiation.
But House Minority Leader Candelora says setting up boundaries is important: “It’s important to have some sort of limitation so it can’t be open-ended.”
Some of Lamont’s 90 executive orders have already expired. Others are being considered as new laws like allowing telehealth.
Leaders tell us they want to pass a bill updating the old statutes first. Then they’ll tackle whether to extend the governor’s authority again.
In 24 days the remaining executive orders – including the mask mandate – are set to end.
The governor’s powers could potentially be extended through July to make sure the vaccine rollout is finished.
Whether it will include extending the indoor mask mandate is unclear. Lawmakers say that decision is best made by the executive and not in a law.
This would be the fourth extension of the governor’s powers.