covid-19 authority

Lawmakers to Revisit Gov. Lamont's COVID-19 Authority

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Connecticut lawmakers are expected to return to the state Capitol in the coming weeks and decide whether to extend Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont’s public health emergency and his executive authority once again as the state continues to emerge from the coronavirus pandemic.

While the date has not yet been set, a spokesperson for the House Democrats said Saturday that lawmakers have been told to keep the week of July 12 open. The state Capitol complex will be open to the public for the first time since March of 2020.

The General Assembly, which is controlled by Democrats, in May agreed to extend the governor’s civil preparedness and public declarations until July 20 even though most of the state’s remaining COVID-19 restrictions were lifted May 19. At the time, the legislative proponents said it was the prudent thing to do, noting how some federal COVID relief programs, including extra food benefits for struggling families, require that such emergency declarations remain in place.

House Speaker Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, told The Hartford Courant there are still several reasons for extending Lamont’s executive authority, including federal funding requirements and the additional flexibility to manage COVID-19 testing and vaccinations.

Democratic lawmakers have agreed with extending Lamont’s executive authority several times, often to the dismay of Republicans who argue it’s time for the state’s legislative branch of government to retake its power. They continue to question the need to give Lamont the extraordinary power given the state’s encouraging COVID-19 data.

There have been 22.7 new cases per 100,000 people in Connecticut over the past two weeks, which ranks 40th in the country for new cases per capita, according to researchers from Johns Hopkins. On Friday, state data showed 89 new confirmed or probable cases but no new deaths since Thursday. To date, there have been 8,279 COVID-associated deaths in Connecticut.

More than 2 million residents have been fully vaccinated in Connecticut so far.

“I’m not sure why a governor would still need broad authority to modify our laws and make decisions,” said Vincent Candelora, the Republican leader in the Connecticut House of Representatives told the Hartford Courant. “We, like the rest of society, need to normalize our process and return back to our democracy.”

Ritter noted how the General Assembly has new oversight of Lamont’s emergency orders under a new law. For example, one of his orders can be invalidated if a majority of legislative leaders object to it.

“The new statutory framework does give the legislature a greater say and a greater role in the process,” Ritter said. It’s unclear whether lawmakers might consider a blanket extension of Lamont’s emergency authority or address his outstanding executive orders individually.

Lawmakers are not expected to deal with Lamont’s recent veto of a bill that limited when isolated confinement can be used in Connecticut’s prisons. A veto session is expected to be held later in the month, but it remains unclear if there is enough support to override Lamont’s veto.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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