HARTFORD, Connecticut — Once again, lawmakers under the gold dome debated and voted on a requested extension of Gov. Ned Lamont's executive authority.
On Monday, the House voted 80-60 in favor of extending Gov. Ned Lamont’s emergency power. Ten Democrats flipped to join Republicans in opposition.
On Tuesday, the Senate followed suit and approved the measure 18-15. Two Democrats joined Republicans in opposition.
Just about half of all the states in the nation have emergency declarations in place but in New England, it’s only Connecticut and Rhode Island.
Citing an ever-changing public health emergency driven by the Delta COVID-19 variant, Lamont sought the sixth extension of his emergency powers.
Following the approval, the governor signed a new executive order Tuesday.
According to Lamont's office, the latest authorizes nine previously issued executive orders to remain in effect through the duration of the renewed declarations, and revises and narrows two previously issued executive orders.
“I believe Connecticut has been smart in our response and we’ve been taking the right steps to help mitigate the spread of this virus to the best of our abilities,” Lamont said. “That’s why we’ve gotten to a place where we currently have among the best results in the nation, and I’m just asking people to be cautious just a little bit longer until we can get this behind us.”
Lamont’s executive powers will continue for another 135 days until Feb. 15, 2021.
The following measures are included in the extension:
- Providing non-congregate housing to at-risk populations when housing them in group shelters or other communal settings would put them at greater risk of contracting or spreading COVID-19.
- Masks required in schools, childcare facilities, and certain higher-risk settings, as well as providing municipal authority to require universal masking in certain settings.
- State’s comprehensive and nation-leading vaccination campaign by ensuring coordinating funding and reimbursement for vaccinations and allowing the Department of Public Health to share vaccination information with healthcare providers and local health districts.
- Before initiating the summary process for eviction, landlords required to file an application with UniteCT, the state’s nation-leading program to provide fiscal assistance to landlords and renters to prevent evictions that could lead to homelessness and the resulting increased risk of contracting and transmitting COVID-19.
- Streamlined training program for temporary nurse aides.
- Long-term care facility workers, state hospital workers, state employees, preK through 12 school workers, and the staff of childcare facilities required to get vaccinated, with test-out options for those not working in long-term care facilities and hospitals.
Lamont's latest order will also extend agency or municipal orders that were issued pursuant to any unexpired COVID-19 order.
While Democrats said it’s about public health, Republicans and some residents are upset, saying it’s about power.
"I’m disgusted at the fact that this continues to happen month after month after month,” Lauren Vernaglia of Bristol said. "I don’t think anyone cares about the safety of anyone. I think it is all about money, power, and control."
Vernaglia added: "If you choose to get a vaccine. If you choose to wear a mask that is your right. And it is your right to choose not to. And I am disgusted that the Constitution State continues to trample over the Constitution.”
State Senate President Marty Looney said it was necessary for the governor to have the executive authority needed to act quickly in case of an emergency that may arise or time may be of the essence.
But that’s future tense. Republicans said the phrase, “in case an emergency may arise” is proof that Democrats know there is no emergency currently.
"We are a far cry away from March of 2020 in both what our perspective was on the virus and how Connecticut has been successfully dealing with that,” Senate Republican Leader Kevin Kelly said.
Meanwhile, Democrats said talking about the future is important with COVID vaccine authorization anticipated for children.
"We have to make sure that we continue to keep Connecticut safe and healthy and that includes all of those kids who don’t have the ability to get vaccinated yet," said Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff.
So, what is the metric? When are they willing to concede emergency powers?
"Reasonable prudence would say that we would have to see a substantial period of time where the infection rate was a half a percent or below," remarked Looney.
Democrats have argued that the governor has not abused his emergency power and point to the fact that party leaders still have the ability to veto his executive orders within 72 hours.
Republicans call the measure a farce and said it makes Democrats look like they are being inclusive when they have no intention of going against the governor.
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