HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — The State Senate approved the extension of Governor Ned Lamont’s emergency executive powers Tuesday, following the vote by State House lawmakers Monday to extend the powers through February.
The Senate voted 18 to 15 with 3 absent to approve the extension of the emergency powers, with two Democratic lawmakers joining the Republicans.
The House voted 80-60 in favor, with 10 Democrats joining the Republicans.
Lamont’s powers, set to expire Sept. 30, were approved in March of 2020 when the pandemic began.
Connecticut statutes require the state legislature to approve renewing his executive powers.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are against extending the powers, but the majority of lawmakers are winning the debate. They’re willing to let Lamont take the reins of power for another five months.
Outside, hundreds of protestors held signs and chanted “vote no.” Susan Zabohonski is a member of Parents Choice and believes COVID is going to be here for a long time, and the three branches of government have to be put back in place.
Tired of protests not making a difference, voters say they’re changing their strategy.
“At this point, we’re pivoting and we’re not going to demonstrate like this, we’re going to talk to the local communities and start from the ground up,” said Diane Dossias of Bristol, who watched the special session on TV from the first floor of the Capitol, the only floor open to the public.
Lobbyists and lawmakers inside were within eyeshot of frustrated protestors on the other side of the glass. Many protestors did not try to come inside.
“We are starting to head into virtual signaling and shaming individuals who have different opinions from our own,” said State Representative and Republican Minority House Leader Vin Candelora.
Republicans say the divisiveness around COVID has become dangerous, that Connecticut’s low positivity rate should be enough and people should be free to live.
“We need temporary orders to administer vaccines so that is something I would look at, but that is not what this governor asked for,” Candelora said. “We are on a merry-go-round. There is no standard for these extensions.”
“Claiming that we are in an emergency state shows a shocking disregard of the facts,” said State Senator Rob Sampson, a Republican representing Southington, in his floor debate Tuesday.
Democrats say the pandemic is in full swing.
“We don’t know if there will be another variant as deadly or even worse than the Delta,” said State Senator and Democratic Senate President Martin Looney.
Democratic House Speaker Matt Ritter says when everyone, including kids, can get the vaccine, the standard will be met and lawmakers will be able to govern again like they did two years ago. He explains the rules are not infringing.
“If you don’t want to get vaccinated, get a negative test on a weekly basis. These are reasonably calculated,” Ritter said.
“If you want to be Ron DeSantis and say schools cannot require masks in their school, they say so, otherwise, you’ve got the chance to weigh in. I want everyone’s fingerprints on this. Connecticut’s doing the right thing.”
Can the school mask mandate be rolled back? Ritter told News 8, “I would be fine relaxing mask mandates for those schools who had high vaccination rates.”
That decision depends on the federal government signing off on vaccines for young children and a decision that only the governor can make if the powers remain.
Tuesday evening Lamont issued a new executive order extending the deadline for nine previously issued COVID orders through the duration of his renewed pandemic powers. It also revises and narrows the scope of two previously issued executive orders.
There is a 72-hour rule. The leaders can veto the new order or let it be.
Republicans say that is not democracy and takes away the vote of individually elected lawmakers.
House Chair of the Education Committee State Rep. Robert Sanchez issued a statement after Monday’s vote that read in part:
“The State of Connecticut ranks amongst the most successful at combating the epidemic and we cannot let our guard down as we continue the work of keeping COVID-19 at bay. It is prudent for us [to] gauge how far out of the woods we are and this extension provides us with the time needed to get us through what may be an increasingly active time period for the virus spread.”
To read Lamont’s full letter to legislative leaders, click here.
Meanwhile, Republicans and some communities in the Greater Hartford area have been calling on lawmakers to address the uptick in crime in Connecticut. Safe Streets CT met at the capitol Monday morning for a press conference and demonstration.