State House set to extend governor’s pandemic powers along party lines

Politics

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — House Speaker State Representative Matt Ritter says perspective after a year makes a big difference.

“We feel pretty good where we are with COVID so I think we are more flexible now than we were a year ago.”

But with flexibility comes caution.

Along party lines, House lawmakers are voting to extend Governor Ned Lamont’s pandemic powers through July 20. Republican House Minority Leader State Representative Vin Candelora says extending the powers for the fifth time is “disappointing.”

Republicans fear extending the powers will deny landlords some of their rights.

“We can not continue to deny people access to their property and the ability to receive rent,” added Candelora.

The governor’s office tells News 8 all of the sector rules will end on May 19. Except for the indoor mask requirement.

“I think what we are trying to do is make sure he maintains the flexibility that the governor needs to act in an emergency situation,” said State Representative Jason Rojas the Deputy Majority Leader.

In addition to extending Governor Lamont’s powers for another 60-days, a separate bill would temporarily give the legislature power to approve, or deny any new orders. The caucus leaders would have veto power over the governor.

House Speaker Ritter explains, “If there is a particular extension the legislative leaders don’t like it they can veto it. It’s a very different mechanism for the next nine to 10-months.”

A committee of five will come up with new permanent rules.

“We just don’t know when the next emergency is going to be so we want to have the best minds really deal with emergency management spaces give us advice before we pass a bill next year and codify it,” added Ritter.

The Republican House Minority Leader says his caucus suggested the committee.

“That is a significant victory for us the legislature is now going to have a say when declarations are extended.”

The State Senate will have to take up the measure before next Wednesday. That’s when the current powers expire. An effort to amend the state constitution to allow for no-excuse absentee ballot voting during an election is expected to pass.

RELATED: CT lawmakers expected to vote on a constitutional amendment concerning early voting, no-excuse absentee ballots

But lawmakers do not expect to get the 75 percent threshold required to get the question on the ballot in 2022. Republicans say they will vote against the amendment citing concerns over signature verification and other safeguards.

State Representative Vin Candelora the Republican leader in the House says, “If you don’t have the proper safeguards it’s going to invite fraud and that’s our concern. We have had people arrested for absentee voter fraud in the state of Connecticut you have that issue weighing on the minds of voters as well.”

Democrats see it differently.

“I think the goal should be to make it easier to vote. I don’t question people’s motives on this. I don’t think they’re making it political. I certainly hope not. It is disappointing that we can’t get to 75 percent. I think that’s what the voters want,” said Speaker Ritter.

After Tuesday the measure will move on to the State Senate. Ultimately, the amendment will have to come back to a new legislature which will not be until 2023.

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