Extending the Governor’s Emergency Powers?

July 13, 2021

Friends and Neighbors,

Tomorrow the legislature will be called into special session to vote on whether or not to further extend the Governor’s emergency authority and powers.

Below, I’m sharing what the Waterbury Republican-American’s Editorial Board said on the subject last week.

I will be voting no, and if you also believe that it’s time to return to our representative government, I encourage you to call Senate Democrats at 860 240-8600 and House Democrats at 860 240-8500.

Is emergency finally over?

An editorial from the Waterbury Republican-American
July 8, 2021

While the COVID-19 crisis seems to be receding in Connecticut, Gov. Ned Lamont is asking the legislature to again renew the emergency declarations he issued in March 2020, the Republican-American reported July 1. A Connecticut Mirror story carried in the July 2 Republican-American indicated lawmakers will consider Gov. Lamont’s request during a special session next week. The declarations cleared the way for the governor to wield emergency authority.

It is time for Connecticut to drop the “government-by-governor” model.

Legislators who are considering voting for a renewal owe their constituents explanations.

As COVID-19 reared its ugly head in Connecticut, Gov. Lamont declared public-health and civil-preparedness emergencies. State law mandated such declarations receive legislative approval. With approval came the governor’s extraordinary authority to run Connecticut largely on his own. An emergency declaration may be in place for no more than six months at a time. The legislature has renewed Democratic Gov. Lamont’s declarations multiple times, on largely party-line votes – and the Greater Waterbury and Litchfield County delegations are no exceptions.

Early on, it was hard to dispute that Gov. Lamont needed some emergency authority. At that time, it would have been difficult for Connecticut government to respond to sudden developments and other challenges via the traditional legislative process.

It is a different story today.

“There have been 22.7 new cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 people in Connecticut over the past two weeks, which ranks 40th in the (United States) for new cases per capita, according to researchers from Johns Hopkins (University),” The Associated Press reported in a story The Sunday Republican carried July 4. This story also indicated 2 million-plus Connecticut residents are fully vaccinated. On a related note, the legislature met for its regular 2021 session. Indeed, the Capitol has opened to the public, albeit with some restrictions, for the first time since March 2020, WVIT-TV reported July 6. Gov. Lamont deserves some credit for these positive developments.

Connecticut is making important strides in putting COVID-19 in the rearview mirror. Accordingly, the best course is to get back to the traditional model of government.

This would ensure the best possible representation for the people, a point also made in recent days by House Minority Leader Vincent J. Candelora, R-North Branford, and Senate Minority Leader Kevin C. Kelly, R-Stratford.

Gov. Lamont said an extension will allow him to respond quickly to developments, and allow Connecticut to receive federal relief funds, CT News Junkie reported July 6. However, Rep. Candelora, a graduate of Penn State Dickinson Law School, “said Connecticut could continue to qualify for federal funding through a specific declaration,” reporter Hugh McQuaid wrote.

Clearly, the time for “government by governor” has come and gone, and a renewal next week would be a dereliction of legislators’ constitutional duties.

Lawmakers who believe otherwise are obligated to explain their thinking.

Locally, we are eager to hear from Reps. Michelle L. Cook, D-Torrington; Larry B. Butler, D-72nd District; and Geraldo C. Reyes, D-75th District, all of whom are deputy House speakers and voted for past renewals.