HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Governor Ned Lamont‘s COVID executive powers are set to expire at the end of the month.
But there is renewed interest from the executive in extending those powers through February.
If approved, Gov. Lamont’s latest request would give him unilateral powers to run state government through the new year.
“What is the standard we are applying here? Is the standard just as long as COVID exists, we’re going to keep delegating our power? That shouldn’t be the standard,” said State Representative Vin Candelora, the Republican House Minority Leader.
The extension has effectively put Lamont in charge since the beginning of the pandemic nearly two years ago.
But the Speaker of the House points out the “Special Act” passed unanimously in May in the House chamber is a check and balance of the power.
“So now the governor can’t go on autopilot. Every executive order is subject to legislative review and the authorization of the extension has to be approved by the full general assembly,” explained State Representative Matt Ritter.
The request for a 120-day extension comes as the state’s COVID positivity rate is one of the lowest in the nation.
The state’s vaccination rate is one of the highest.
About a dozen executive orders would remain in effect including;
- A school mask mandate
- A vaccine mandate for state workers
- A vaccine mandate for healthcare workers and teachers
- Rent relief
- An order to allow commuter lots to become vaccination clinics
A task force was put in place to dig into emergency declarations that have not been met.
Many lawmakers are frustrated and the debate doesn’t fall within party lines.
The Black and Puerto Rican Caucus, which wields a lot of power, is split on whether to support an extension.
“The caucus right now is actually split. It’s 50-50. There are many of our members that don’t believe we even need the executive powers anymore,” said State Representative Geraldo Reyes, the Chair of the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus.
The governor said he wants to be able to work fast with legislative leaders if booster shots are approved and if the FDA clears children for the COVID vaccine.
“I don’t really care if it’s 60, 90, or 120 days. I just want to keep kids safe,” added Gov. Lamont.
A special session is scheduled for the end of September. It is just days before the governor’s emergency powers are set to expire.
It is unclear which direction lawmakers will go if the legislature denies the extension. They could take a legislative vote to codify each remaining executive order into law.