State House Democrats vote to expand Lamont’s executive powers



HARTFORD – The Democratic-dominated state House of Representatives, after a nearly four-hour debate, voted to extend Governor Ned Lamont’s emergency powers until mid-February 2022, as Republicans say the legislation was not necessary.

The sixth extension of emergency powers would maintain a number of mandates stemming from the COVID pandemic, including the requirement for face masks in schools. The legislation, which passed 80-60 with 10 Democrats voting with the GOP minority, will be debated in the Senate on Tuesday.

“I haven’t received a phone call or email asking to extend these emergency powers,” Conservative Representative Gale Mastrofrancesco, R-Wolcott said, beginning the afternoon’s debate. “There is no public health emergency. Let us give power back to the people.

She began a cascade of Republican grievances that spread throughout the afternoon, claiming Governor Ned Lamont was overstepping the power of the General Assembly. None of the 10 Democrats who voted against the bill spoke during the debate.


“Gov. Lamont, I think you deserve some time off, ”said sarcastic state representative Holly Cheeseman, R-East Lyme. “I think you need a vacation and I think we need to get back to work.”

State Representative Craig Fishbein, R-Wallingford, the top Republican on the judicial law-drafting committee, noted that although lawmakers have been told the extension would continue Lamont’s powers until 15 February, the bill does not mention the date.

Another lawyer, Representative Tom O’Dea, R-New Canaan, noted that Lamont had recently boasted that Connecticut was the nation’s leader in immunization. “Fortunately, we are not as dysfunctional as Washington, DC,” he said. “It’s a low bar, I know. There is no reason to extend these executive powers.

Shortly after 2 p.m., O’Dea submitted an amendment that would have required public hearings within three days of any future emergency orders. House Majority Leader Jason Rojas, D-East Hartford, said the proposal fell outside the special session and was rejected by an 84-49 vote when Republicans voted contested the decision.

“We are the State of Constitution,” said O’Dea. “I don’t think we should extend these decrees. We’re a long way from where we were in March 2020. I think we should have public hearings on these orders. “

First-term Representative Kim Fiorello, R-Greenwich, praised the dozens of people who testified at a hearing last week sponsored by House Conservative Republicans, and she defended those who opposed vaccines and masks. “It’s not the government’s job to pass judgment on these people,” Fiorello said. “Those who make their own decisions about vaccines, a reasonable mind can understand their hesitation.”

“There are a lot of questions and a lot of anxiety,” Minority Parliamentary Leader Vincent Candelora R-North Branford said at the end of the debate, citing the toxic political atmosphere. “With anxiety comes fear, comes anger. I think we have the ability to bring the temperature down by deliberating again. And that’s why today I think a vote against is appropriate.

Candelora said the state had met the list of goals Governor Ned Lamont set in May 2020, and warned the legislature must create a standard on what is a real emergency. “I feel like now the urgency is this: COVID exists and therefore the declaration must exist,” he said. “I would say democracy is stronger than COVID. “

“What has become painfully obvious to all of us is that the COVID virus is unpredictable,” Rojas said at the end of the debate. “We have seen several variations that work in different ways. He warned that much of the partisan rhetoric around the issue was inappropriate, while Lamont’s response has been consistent and the state has taken advantage of it.

“He didn’t act like a king,” Rojas said. “He did not act like a tyrant, nor did we abdicate our responsibility as an equal branch of government to work with the governor to address the challenges we have faced since March 2020. I grew weary. rhetoric, denying what we all know to be true; deny that we still face the threat of disruption to our lives due to COVID. This denial is irresponsible.

“Our democracy is intact,” said State Representative Stephen Meskers of Greenwich, one of the few Democrats to speak out among a dozen or more conservative Republicans. “We are not threatened by this.” Meskers said Lamont was exemplary at a time when the state needed leadership, and the emergence of the Delta variant justifies its continued flexibility.

“With all due respect, I am doing my job in supporting this request for an executive order,” Meskers said. “We may not agree, but that is the nature and the prejudices inherent in a democracy. But I challenge anyone to question my integrity and my decision-making as a duly elected member of this body. “

Outside the historic State Capitol, around 100 protesters held Tory flags and placards, including Gadsden’s “Don’t Tread On Me” and “Represent, Not Mandate” flag. They were divided between those who watched a giant television with House debates on the north side and those who shouted on the south side. By mid-afternoon, they started to disperse.

The Governor’s Powers Bill was introduced by State Representative Dan Fox D-Stamford, Co-Chair of the Committee on Government Administration and Elections.

Late in the morning, a group of unmasked protesters attempted to enter the Capitol through a side entrance and were turned back by security teams who reported rules requiring masks.

In an odd juxtaposition to chants outside the Capitol, formal tours were carried out as usual for masked visitors, including buses full of elderly people, though they were limited to the first floor and could not go up to the chambers of the House or the Senate, or the Governor. second floor suite.

Democrats who voted against the legislation included Rep. Raghib Allie-Brennan from Danbury, Rep. Andrew Baker from Bridgeport, Rep. Jill Barry from Glastonbury, Rep. Pat Boyd from Pomfret, Rep. Michael DiGiovancarlo from Waterbury, Rep. Jack Hennessy from Bridgeport, Representative Anne Huges from Easton, Representative David Michel from Stamford, Representative Robyn Porter from New Haven and Representative Travis Simms from Norwalk,

Speaker of the House Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, began the early afternoon meeting by reminding the nearly full chamber that the rules require masks except when lawmakers are speaking. “A mask should be worn over your mouth and nose,” Ritter said. “There will be no medical or religious exemption from this mask requirement. He said if the rule was not followed it would make legislative history and allow the final vote to take place immediately, thus ending the precedent of unlimited debate.

“By not wearing a mask, you are also depriving people of the right to feel safe in the bedroom and to speak up and represent their constituents,” Ritter said.

[email protected] Twitter: @KenDixonCT


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