CONNECTICUT — Gov. Ned Lamont this week extended his emergency powers, but now Republicans are saying that isn’t the case. Lamont wants to extend his emergency powers until Feb. 9.
Lamont was granted broad executive powers under the public health and civil preparedness emergency in March when the coronavirus pandemic hit. The emergency powers and Lamont’s accompanying executive orders are set to expire on Sept. 9. That would mean all of Lamont’s orders related to face mask, business closures and others would end. The Legislature would have to vote on the executive orders order-by-order.
"Bringing an abrupt end to this state of emergency at this time would cripple our ability to quickly respond to new challenges and risk the hard work and sacrifices everyone has made to protect our state from this disease," Lamont said in a statement. "Over the next several months, our administration will continue working with our partners in the legislature, in our municipalities, in our nonprofits, in our long-term care facilities, and in our hospitals to collaboratively combat this virus.”
Lamont has issued a series of executive orders throughout the pandemic, including limits on social gathering sizes, closure of businesses, face mask mandates and personal protective equipment purchases. He has also issued orders related to coronavirus testing, especially for high-risk populations in congregate settings.
His emergency powers also gave flexibility to hospitals, nursing homes and first responders to change certifications to bring in more manpower to deal with the pandemic. He also used the powers to issue an eviction moratorium, which has since been extended to October.
“We had to move fast especially in March and April where things were breaking really hard,” Lamont said at his Monday news conference.
Lamont issued executive orders on a near-daily basis between mid-March and into early April.
Lamont announced Monday he had support from legislative leadership, but Republican leaders said that wasn't entirely the case. Both Republican leaders in the state House and Senate said Lamont mischaracterized their support of the extension.
“The Governor and lawmakers discussed what would be an appropriate time period for an extension, if one was to be granted,” said Senate Republican leader Len Fasano. “However, no leader acquiesced to vote yes or no on any request for an expansion of his powers.
“Republican legislative leaders made it very clear that we have serious concerns about expanding any emergency powers without also implementing a plan to give the public a voice in the process which they have been entirely shut out of thus far.”
A 10-member committee of legislators will decide on whether to extend the emergency powers of Lamont, a Democrat. Democrats have a 6-4 majority on the committee, according to The CT Mirror.
“Republicans have not agreed to extending out for an additional five months blanket executive authority to run the State of Connecticut absent legislative oversight,” said Republican House leader Themis Klarides. “It was not our intention to either extend or eliminate all of the nearly 70 Executive Orders on Sept. 9.”
Both Klarides and Fasano wrote a letter to legislative leadership expressing concern about Lamont having so much authority. They said it wasn't about whether Lamont was doing a good job or not during the pandemic, but about equal branches of government.
"That is why we are urging the Governor to grant the committee the ability to appeal or reject any executive order within 72 hours of its issuance," they wrote.