Lamont says he may need narrow extension of COVID powers

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HARTFORD, Conn. (AP/ WTNH) — Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont and Senate President Pro Tempore Martin Looney are leaving open the possibility the governor may need to have his emergency powers extended under narrow circumstances as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

Lamont’s civil preparedness and public health emergency declarations have been extended multiple times since March 2020 and are now set to expire Feb. 15.

The governor’s office is putting together a list of a dozen executive orders he wants lawmakers to vote on. Items that could be on the list include the school mask mandate, businesses asking customers for proof of vaccination and remote learning.

“Building some flexibility into the 180 day calendar for short periods where things have to be remote in the case of an emergency… these are things we will obviously look at,” Looney said.

Lamont said he needs the ability to move fast during the pandemic.

“We had to move pretty fast to get rapid tests. I could have an RFP and a long process but that would definitely slow things up,” Lamont said.

Looney said he agrees.

“He [Lamont] has been judicious and constrained in them and has not abused them in the two years, almost two years since the first emergency order went into effect,” Looney said.

If legislative leaders do not like an executive order, they can block it but it takes a majority vote.

A separate group of lawmakers is charged with looking at how the state manages emergencies.

“We need to do some planning upfront so that long-term we can understand how to function as a democracy again under COVID,” said State Representative Vin Candelora.

Candelora said after two years, it is time to let the legislature be an equal branch of government.

“I’ve been asking for almost six months for data on spread in schools, on spread in sports to determine what really makes sense to codify. We have yet to get any of that data,” Candelora said.

Senate Minority Leader Kevin Kelly said an extension would be “outrageous.”

“There is no reason why the legislature cannot act as an equal branch of government to manage the pandemic response and represent the voices of our constituents,” Kelly said.

Kelly told News 8: “Our government was never designed to operate like this. Connecticut has been under emergency executive powers for nearly two years, and now a seventh extension is really being considered? It’s outrageous.”

Lawmakers head back to the Capitol in three weeks.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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