HARTFORD, Connecticut — By an 80-60 vote, the state House voted to approve an extension to Gov. Ned Lamont's emergency powers. Lawmakers gathered in a special session Monday to debate and vote on the pandemic-related powers.
Democrats said the extension is needed to quickly adapt to public health challenges created by the Delta variant, but Republicans claim it’s a power grab. They accuse Democrats of trying to turn the state into one-party rule.
The Senate will take up the measure on Tuesday. It’s expected to pass along a party-line vote with Democrats having the majority in both chambers.
Still, dozens of residents gathered outside the state Capitol in protest of the anticipated move.
"King Ned is trying to extend his emergency powers for COVID," said Mike, a resident of Franklin.
Elise Major of Danielson said: "I think his emergency powers should not have been in the first place."
Meanwhile, the people’s representatives were huddled under the gold dome to decide whether to give Lamont another 135 days of power to implement executive orders without a check by the full legislative branch.
Regarding Lamont's executive orders, Democratic Speaker of the House Matt Ritter said: "If you do not like them, if you do not agree with them, call me and we will have a vote and you can make your motion to veto that executive order."
The six leaders of the House and Senate have the authority to veto any of the governor’s executive orders but House Republican Leader Vincent Candelora pointed out, "The problem with that veto rule is you have a 72-hour window to veto and it goes away forever."
People outside the Capitol told FOX61 it’s high time that the government be returned to the people.
"I am very tired of the elected officials thinking that we work for them and that they can tell us what to do when in this free country according to my constitution rights, I have the right to choose for me," said Major.
n addition to railing against an extension of emergency powers, the protesters held signs and chanted to oppose mask and vaccine mandates.
"No one is making any of these individuals get vaccinated. They just have to get tested," explained Ritter.
But that’s not completely true. Nursing home workers, for example, don’t have a weekly testing option. In addition, the testing option for school bus drivers only applies to those already grandfathered in, not new hires.
FOX61 caught up with Lamont to ask why he was requesting a sixth extension.
"We’re doing this to keep you safe. We’ve got boosters line we've been talking about. With vaccines for kids, we've got to be able to act and act fast. I've tried to be very clear with the legislature, we want your input."
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Under an extension, Lamont has said he will let two executive orders expire but will also implement two new orders.
"One of the things I hear is Connecticut is doing so well, why do you need pandemic-related restrictions? Well that’s why we are doing well," said Ritter.
But Republican leaders pointed to a Roadmap for Reopening Connecticut presentation issued in May 2020. They said all of the stated goals inside have been achieved.
"What has changed in these goals to require a complete delegation of authority to this governor?" asked Candelora. "If it weren’t for the delta variant we might not have had to do it," explained Speaker Ritter.
The extension would last until February 15, the start of a new legislative session.
Before debate got underway Monday, Ritter chastised some members for violating the capitol’s mask requirement. He threatened to end the debate if it was violated again.
"This is not a plea nor the basis of negotiation. If tested that will be the wrong way, the wrong road and the wrong path. We will go home and end debate but we will vote on the people’s business," said Ritter.
Some Republicans suggested the speaker was being petty.
"Nobody should be using COVID rules to try and stifle debate," said Candelora.
Matt Caron is a reporter at FOX61 News. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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