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State Senate votes to extend 11 executive orders and state of emergency

The lawmakers voted to extend 11 of Gov. Ned Lamont's executive orders including the highly controversial school mask mandate.

HARTFORD, Conn. — It was decision day on Monday for state senators who aired their grievances in a floor debate over whether to extend Connecticut’s emergency declaration related to COVID-19. 

The lawmakers voted to extend 11 of Gov. Ned Lamont's executive orders including the highly controversial school mask mandate. The bills passed by a mainly party-line vote of 21-14.

The Senate vote came following last week’s vote in the House. It also happened after a seven-hour public hearing where only a third of those who signed up to testify were called to speak and that was before anyone got to see the language of the legislation.

Lawmakers also passed the vote to extend Connecticut's State of Emergency through June 30, effectively preserving tens of millions in federal reimbursement funding for Connecticut. That passed 21-13 with every Republican voting against it.

“We’ve been living under executive orders for two years,” State Sen. Kevin Kelly, the Republican leader in the Senate said.

State Sen. Martin Looney, the President Pro Tempore responded: “The emergency is not over.”

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Democrats have said extending the state of emergency is necessary to preserve tens of millions in federal SNAP benefit funding. Republicans called that a false narrative, saying Connecticut’s Congressional Delegation could easily negotiate to retain that money.

“You have a moral responsibility to stand up for your constituents and their children. Right now, the mask mandate and everything we’ve done to kids in school has harmed those kids developmentally, emotionally and socially,” said Lucas Johnson, a high school senior from Killingly.

RELATED: House lawmakers pass vote to extend school mask mandate, vote to extend state's emergency declaration

Johnson was part of a group of students and adults who gathered inside the state Capitol on Monday to keep the pressure on lawmakers. They handed out a packet of testimony and more than 100 signatures of students collected over the last 24 hours. The group is advocating for parent choice.

“I've been suspended three times for not wearing a mask,” said Grace Rigali, a second-grader from Bristol. “I’ve been trying to go to school without a mask because I want to stand up for my rights and others.”

RELATED: Teachers suing Lamont over COVID, vaccine mandates speak out

Senate Republicans offered a parent choice amendment.

“Parents are the ones who are properly situated to make sure that the best interests of their child are protected,” said Sen. Kelly.

It was struck down by Democrats who see masks as a community health decision.

“In terms of parents deciding, children don’t exist in a vacuum. They go to school with other children. Everybody should be concerned about the health of the whole community. We have children who go to school with compromised immune systems who will continue to wear masks and who will be safer only if other children are also wearing masks,” said Looney.

As for what the legislation actually does, it extends the statewide mask mandate in schools until Feb. 28. At that point, individual school districts would be allowed to either continue or discontinue the mask mandate. The authority to reinstate a statewide school mask mandate would be retained by the commissioner of the State Department of Education in consultation with the state Department of Public Health.

Both Democrats and Republicans said they hope this is the last time the extensions are necessary.

"It would be I think irresponsible to mislead the public that we know for a fact that it will be. But I think we need to be ready for whatever comes. Hopeful but prepared," said Looney.

"Here we are, you know seventh time. We're in a drastically different place than we were in 2020," said Kelly.

Matt Caron is a reporter at FOX61 News. He can be reached at mcaron@fox61.com. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Gaby Molina is a reporter and anchor at FOX61 News. She can be reached at gmolina@fox61.com. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


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