Gov. Ned Lamont announced Monday he will file a request for a five-month renewal of his public health emergency powers with legislative leaders as the coronavirus pandemic continues, saying the new Feb. 9 deadline will provide continuity and give his administration flexibility if Connecticut’s COVID-19 situation changes and quick actions become necessary.
But the top Republican in the House of Representatives said even though the pandemic is continuing, that doesn’t necessarily mean the same orders should remain in place.
“They were appropriate in the beginning,” said House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby. “They are too broad for the time we are in now.”
Lamont will formally file an emergency renewal and declaration on Tuesday, giving legislative leaders and top lawmakers on the General Assembly’s Public Health Committee 72 hours to take no action or reject the request, said Paul Mounds, Lamont’s chief of staff. Democrats control the 10-member special committee.
Lamont’s existing order, issued in March, is set to expire on Sept. 9. He told reporters on Monday there would be a lot of confusion if many of the health-related restrictions he has imposed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, ranging from limits on nursing home visits to the continued closure of bars, suddenly ended that day.
“I didn’t want all those emergency orders to come to an end on Sept. 9th and you have a big rush in terms of what stores open, what bars stay closed and such. We thought it was better for continuity to extend that a longer period of time,” said Lamont, who spoke with lawmakers on Monday. “So that’s why I think we all agreed that five months was a more appropriate period of time.”
Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, stressed in a written statement that lawmakers had not yet agreed to the extension. He said Republican leaders made it clear they have “serious concerns about expanding any emergency powers without also implementing a plan to give the public a voice in the process which they have been entirely shut out of thus far.”
Klarides said there’s been “a lack of transparency” from Lamont’s administration during the pandemic and it’s time to “start moving back toward a place where the legislature and governor work together and not by fiat.”
Since March 10, when Lamont issued a declaration of public health and civil preparedness emergencies and proclaimed a state of emergency throughout the state, he has issued 66 executive orders to suspend or modify state laws and take other actions he considers necessary to protect public health and safety and to mitigate COVID-19.