After Republican Pressure, Democrats Call Last Minute Meeting Over Emergency Orders

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With less than 24 hours before Governor Ned Lamont’s emergency orders are set to automatically extend for another five months, Democrats have announced a special hearing to review each of the 67 orders signed by the governor since the COVID-19 crisis began in March.

Their Republican colleagues have been calling for the meeting since the governor signed the extension on Tuesday.

It will automatically take effect by 2 p.m. Friday, if no action is taken.  However, if the orders are nullified, they’ll be allowed to expire on the original end date, September 9.

Meanwhile, some business owners and residents called for an end to the orders, saying they’re too restrictive, during a rally on Friday.

“There is no emergency,” said Shannon Gamache of Ashford.

Waving the red, white, and blue, more than 100 people lined up in the name of liberty outside the state Capitol.

“The majority of us who are healthy and who are young and who aren’t going to be affected by this we should be able to live our lives unrestricted,” she said.

"We're hurting.  We can't pay our bills and no one's helping us,” said Ken Ernhout of Litchfield.

Representative Anne Dauphinais, the organizer of the event, said through his executive orders, the governor is choosing winners and losers.

“Why is it one business can open and another one can't?  Why can we have 150 people in a Walmart but not 100 people in a church?" she asked.

During Friday’s emergency meeting of the Committee of 10, the top Democrats and Republicans along with ranking members of the Public Health Committee will only have two choices, either vote to extend or abolish all of the orders.

There’s a 72-hour window from the moment the governor signs the orders, which means action must be taken by the 2 p.m. Friday deadline or the orders automatically extend.

Republican lawmakers have complained that Democrats are giving the governor free reign.

“He said he needed two weeks.  Then after two weeks he said he had to flatten the curve. The curve got flattened and now it’s going on and on and on and on and there’s just one reason after the next to continue this,” said Dauphinais.

Ken Ernhout, a landlord, said his Torrington tenant stopped paying rent before the pandemic, but the state's eviction moratorium has stopped him from taking action.

"This hurts our own pocketbooks, it hurts our own families,” he told a crowd of 100 people at a rally for Liberty on the steps of the State Capitol Thursday.

Landlords aren't the only ones who feel they're losing their livelihood.  For his photobooth business, Jonathan Johnson depends on weddings and other big events, which haven't been allowed to resume.

"My entire business is shut down with no hopes of continuing,” said Johnson.

The governor’s office pointed out that 95% of the state’s economy is open for business. 

“We’ve got about 86% of our economy back. Our GDP is one of the strongest in the region. We have more of our economy open than anywhere else but just because it’s open doesn’t mean everybody is going back all at once," said Lamont.

However, it’s the 5% that’s growing weary of waiting for the state to move into phase three of its reopening plan.

“We were told that we were gonna take 15 days to flatten the curve that was 171 days ago.  We’ve had multiple days in the month of August with zero deaths, we have under one death per day, under 1% infection rate, we’ve had no metric or date by which the governor has said he’s going to rescind his executive orders and we want answers,” said Johnson.

With restaurants operating at 50% capacity inside, there's worry that those who depend on outdoor dining won't survive the winter.

"I know I have restaurant owners in my town of Litchfield that will probably not reopen in the spring,” said Rep. David Wilson, R, Litchfield.

It's not just the business community calling for an end to these emergency orders. 

“The past seven months have been really challenging for us,” said Heather Grabeline.

Grabeline said her 13-year-old son Thayden has autism and is non-verbal. However, she said his pediatrician and specialists refuse to sign a letter exempting him from wearing a mask for fear they'll be sued.  Her family's been holed up in their home since the pandemic began.

“I need you to stop with these mandates Governor Lamont.  Our family is suffering,” said Grabeline when asked about her message to the governor.

The meeting of the legislative leaders will start Friday at 8 a.m. in the Legislative Office Building.

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