HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — State lawmakers gathered Wednesday to take up extending Governor Ned Lamont’s COVID-19 pandemic emergency powers.
Last week, the governor sent a five-page letter to legislative leaders requesting his emergency powers be extended through September. Without action, they were set to expire July 20th – in less than one week.
Some Republican lawmakers said they are eager to head into session and say ‘no’ because they feel the orders are an overreach.
State Senator Kevin Kelly, the Republican Senate Minority Leader asked, “If there’s not an emergency in New York City how is this a state of emergency in Connecticut?”
Republicans displayed maps showing Connecticut in red and Rhode Island – the only states in the northeast that are still under emergency orders.
Senator Kelly said, “We are being encouraged to hop on airplanes to go out to dinner- to go to concerts, and sporting events but yet when you walk under the Capitol dome it’s like we’re in March 2020.”
Senate President Martin Looney (D) says the extension of power is needed because Connecticut is not safe. And if conditions get worse – the governor can request another extension.
At what point do the requests stop? Looney said requests for emergency powers related to the pandemic will stop “when the state is safe.”
News 8 Chief Political Correspondent Jodi Latina asked, “Is it not safe now?”
Looney responded, “no it is not.” Adding, “In my own view I would consider at daily positivity rate for a lengthy period of time below point five and a very small number of hospitalizations and deaths becoming very rare.”
State Health data shows the positivity rate has been low for weeks, and Connecticut has one of the highest COVID-19 vaccination rates in the nation.
On Monday, more than 200 critics rallied in the rain. Protestors took to the Capitol campus holding signs saying “Stop King Ned” and “Unmask Our Kids.”
State Representative Vin Candelora, the Republican House Minority Leader, was critical of the Democratic leadership: “It’s about time they listen to the science they have preached to us for the last year and a half.”
Governor Lamont says 11 out of the 300-executive orders are important to keep active moving forward. “I appreciate the legislature giving me the discretion to respond quickly if the Delta variant becomes more dangerous.”
Democrats say the loss of federal funding is potentially also at stake.
When pressed about other states negotiating with the White House to keep funding State Senator Bob Duff of Westport said, “They have different ways in which to get that money based on their own laws and jurisdictions. Ours are different.”
Wednesday, the House voted 73 to 56 with 22 not voting to allow Lamont’s emergency powers to last for another two months.
The state Senate voted 19 to 15 with one not voting to extend Lamont’s emergency powers.
Nine Democrats broke party lines to join Republicans in voting ‘no,’ including the only medical doctor in the senate, Senator Anwar.
State Senator Bob Duff, the Democratic Senate Majority Leader warned, “If people want to end the emergency orders – get vaccinated.”
If Lamont issues executive orders that are controversial, the six legislative leaders can vote to overturn them.
“There’s a very narrow group of reasons why we want to continue this. They can veto any executive order they want on a very timely basis and they haven’t chosen to do that yet,” said Governor Lamont.
State Representative Matt Ritter, the Democratic House Speaker said, “There’s no reason to make restaurants close at 11 o’clock or no reason to do this or stop with sports for example. We would respond if we felt he overstepped his bounds.”
Most of the COVID-19 health safety restrictions put in place last March have expired.
But the governor says he wants an extension to continue managing things like COVID testing, vaccinations, and federal aid.
“I think the greatest concern is the pockets of the towns with low rates; it could be individual schools with low rates,” Ritter said.
In May, the legislature passed a bill requiring the general assembly to take a vote on any extension of the COVID-19 emergency declarations.
The resolution they voted on contains both an ER declaration and Civil Preparedness.
These emergency powers will now expire on Sept. 30.