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The governor’s emergency powers expire in September. What happens then?

Gov. Ned Lamont’s emergency powers under the public health and civil preparedness emergency statutes are set to expire on September 9, six months after he was granted those powers by a vote of legislative leaders in the General Assembly, and that means the executive orders Lamont issued in response to the pandemic would expire as well.

Under the public health emergency statute, Lamont can continue the public health emergency declaration before his powers expire. If that happens, legislative leaders and the chairs, vice-chairs and ranking members of the Public Health Committee will have 72 hours to approve or overrule that declaration. 

If those lawmakers do not vote to end the public health emergency declaration, the governor’s powers and his executive orders will continue.

The governor, in a response to a question from the Associated Press on August 20 regarding the expiration of his emergency powers, said that the legislature would have to call a brief special session to decide what to do.

“My instinct is that we probably ask the legislature to continue the emergency powers a little bit longer, with the necessary checks and balances,” Lamont said.

Paul Mounds, Chief of Staff for the governor, said “if you just take into account what these emergency orders do, they’re allowing our state to safely operate while we’re in this time of COVID.”

“Whether it’s our nursing homes, whether it’s our day cares, whether it’s going to be schools, whether it’s the businesses and business practices that are happening across the state, when September 9th does arrive if those emergency powers are not re-upped in some way, we go back to the world how it was on March first,” Mounds said. “And, let’s be honest, it’s going to be hard for us as a state to function as it was on March first, understanding that we’re still in the world of an epidemic.”

An extension of the public health emergency by another six months would mean the governor’s powers would also extend well into the 2021 legislative session set to begin in January unless the governor declares an end to the emergency before session.

An extension of the public health emergency by another six months would mean the governor’s powers would also extend well into the 2021 legislative session set to begin in January unless the governor declares an end to the emergency before session.

This all matters because it doesn’t look like the COVID-19 pandemic will be going away within the next few months, or even the next year. The state remains in Phase 2 of its reopening schedule, families are preparing to send their children back to public schools and the 2020 election in November, both of which may require a lot of last-minute changes to ensure student safety and compliance.

And despite the slow-down of COVID-19 cases in Connecticut the possibility for a resurgence remains.

The expiration date is a complicated matter, however, because the language of the two emergency declarations differs somewhat. 

While the pandemic has been a public health emergency, the governor’s powers under the public health emergency statute only last six months do not include the ability to suspend legislation and regulations to ensure the state can move quickly to meet the challenges of the pandemic – those powers come under the statute for civil preparedness.

However, under the civil preparedness statute, the emergency declaration remains in force until the governor declares that it is over, giving it an indefinite timeline, although the suspension or modification of state statutes has a six-month timeline thus requiring renewals by executive order. 

The civil preparedness statute does not list a pandemic or epidemic as one of its defined disasters – generally it addresses natural disasters or war – but section 29-9 does list the governor’s powers for “civil preparedness or public health emergency,” which includes the ability to suspend legislation and regulations.

But where does that leave the governor and the state come September?

The General Assembly members who would vote on continuing the public health emergency are majority Democrats who hold the chairs and vice-chairs of the Public Health Committee.

Although the original emergency declaration was supported across partisan lines, some Republican members of General Assembly have grown wary of the unfettered use of executive power during the crisis.

“I think generally speaking there is a general anxiety over where the state is going,” said Rep. Vincent Candelora, R-North Branford, and Deputy House Republican Leader. “The longer we go without legislative input, the more people don’t feel that they have a say.”

Rep. William Petit, R-Plainville, and ranking member on the Public Health Committee says he had “no qualms” about approving the governor’s emergency powers in March but will vote against extending them. 

I had no qualms about voting for it the first time and overall I think the state did pretty well, but moving forward we need collaboration between the executive branch and the legislative branch equally.

Rep. William Petit, R-Plainville

“I would not vote to extend the emergency powers,” Petit said in an interview. “I had no qualms about voting for it the first time and overall I think the state did pretty well, but moving forward we need collaboration between the executive branch and the legislative branch equally.”

Petit says his constituents contact him frequently about the use of executive power under the emergency declaration and that people want to feel they have a voice represented by their elected leaders.

“I think the legislature wants to be involved and I think our constituents want us to be involved,” Petit said.

Just how the legislature and the state would function if the governor’s emergency authority lapsed and his executive orders pursuant to the emergency ended, isn’t really clear. 

The governor could still issue executive orders, but they wouldn’t be able to override existing statutes regarding state regulations, many of which were necessary and beneficial during the peak of the pandemic in Connecticut, while others have burdened business owners and are being challenged in court.

Special session votes by the General Assembly could ensure that some of those executive orders become law at least temporarily if the governor’s emergency powers are not extended.

The governor has thus far issued 67 executive orders to “suspend or modify statutes” in response to the pandemic, including his latest extension of the state’s mask mandate for those who cannot maintain six feet of social distancing into February and an extension of the moratorium on evictions.

Both those orders, in varying degrees, have faced legal challenges in court. Some parents are trying to appeal the mandate that face coverings be required in schools and landlords’ efforts to appeal the moratorium on evictions were shot down by a judge.

In all likeliness, however, the governor’s emergency powers will be extended.

Although Connecticut had a high death rate because of nursing home deaths, the state now has one of the lowest infection rates in the country and, coming into an election season, that bodes well for Democrats who have the majority of votes on whether or not to extend the emergency declaration.

In essence, Gov. Lamont alone takes the heat for the emergency executive orders but Democrat Party candidates can also claim success under a Democrat governor.

How the pandemic plays out not only in Connecticut but across the country and whether or not a vaccine is developed is key to how long the emergency declaration continues.

According to the public health emergency statute, the governor shall declare an end to the public health emergency when “circumstances that caused such emergency to be declared no longer pose a substantial risk of a significant number of human fatalities or incidents of permanent or long-term disability.”

When that time may come is anyone’s guess.

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(19) Comments

  1. Druss

    September 4, 2020 3:22 pm

    People, you are the ones who voted your state Reps to office who in turn allow Lamont the executive powers to shut down the state and at the time no stats were available or data. Now with all the info on no. of deaths, cases, testing, and hydroxychloroquine available for treatment there’s no reason to deny the opportunity for taxpayers to return to work. Yes TAX PAYERS remember us. We pay your salaries! When a vaccine becomes available for one am not taking it and I’m over 65, I refuse to cower inside or wear a mask as a HEALTHY adult. If you feel ill or a scratchy throat then put the mask on, common sense which our elected officials think we the people don’t possess.If the Dems try to make mandatory inoculations with harsh penalties for non compliance, welcome to marxist socialism and the loss of freedoms as we know it. Possibly millions of deaths from the vaccines themselves.

  2. LISA ROY

    September 2, 2020 10:29 am

    OPEN THIS STATE! CDC confirms 6% of deaths were strickly Covid. There are 58 people in the hospital in ALL OF CT!!!. Businesses have been moving out of CT for yrs. Do you want the rest to go also?? It’s a disgrace to make your people suffer for political reasons. Enough is enough. I don’t care whose threatening you. Have the balls to put your people first.

  3. Julie flood

    August 31, 2020 2:46 pm

    We need our legislators back making decisions it should not be left one person Governor Lamont – absolutely no on any further extensions. Legislation and policy must be followed in order to be compliant with our Constitution and our rights as United States citizens

  4. Chief ManIHaddit

    August 28, 2020 2:08 pm

    As long as there are a majority of voters (or those not voting and believe their vote doesn’t count or they’re not “political”) the Dems will have a majority and they will support LaMont. He is, in essence, the king.

  5. Cherie Juhnke

    August 27, 2020 3:10 pm

    We must keep the Governor’s executive powers limited to 6 mos. The current time period is already 5 mos too long. The virus remains, but the emergent phase has waned. Screaming headlines of “4 more cases reported at UConn” will eventually fail to spread panic. And personal freedom will return. Bring back the General Assembly.

  6. Paul

    August 27, 2020 2:53 pm

    He’s doing everything to help our president to win election. God job Lamont. Trump 2020. 💪🇺🇸

    • Michael Coon

      August 30, 2020 11:27 am

      Its time to let people live their lives.Stop the fear and get back to life.

  7. Jeri

    August 27, 2020 11:35 am

    We don’t have kings, the orders need to be voted on by the legislature. They need to step up and vote on the restrictions the governor has been put in place.

    Six months after the fact I think it’s time to let people resume their normal lives if they choose to do so. We don’t need the government to act as our parents!

  8. Peter

    August 27, 2020 11:32 am

    It’s time to end emperor lamonts dictatorial powers. Any politician endorsing the extension of these powers will not get my vote. Nor will I support/obey them in any way.

  9. Marguerite Christie

    August 27, 2020 11:13 am

    Lamont has over stepped his constitutional authority and is abusing his executive powers where there are no checks and balances in play. We live in a constitutional republic where our elected legislators make the laws – not the executive branch. There is obviously no emergency any more and he cannot claim any success in the handling of this viral outbreak. Lamont put infected elderly patients into nursing homes. This virus was around in January and he made radical closures in mid March which in-turn drastically damaged our economy. Currently, Stage 3 is on-hold permanently. He has taken away the livelihoods of so many residents and he still concerned about testing as a bench mark for his illegal power grab. The PCR Covid test actually tests for any corona virus and the inventor, Dr. David Rasnick, said it should never be used for diagnosis and no healthy person should be tested. In fact, the CDC just said that no one who is healthy should be tested, yet Lamont want to keep his residents locked-up with no end in site until everyone is tested and vaccinated (the ultimate end goal). The time has come for the legislators to step up to the plate and end the tyranny.

  10. Chelsea

    August 27, 2020 10:22 am

    Any “special” order or declaration that results in the legislative branch being powerless is unconstitutional! Our Country and Constitution functions on the principle of having separation of powers. The General Assembly must take back control of the State. One man cannot, and should not, be the King of Connecticut. Governor Lamont has overstepped his authority and made series of draconian rules that were ultimately mistakes.
    Everyone needs to email their representatives about this as soon as possible. Whether you agree with Lamont’s decisions or not, the local representatives must have a say in the decisions of this state.

    • john feher

      August 30, 2020 5:46 am

      This is for Communist Lamont! Free the people ! G life is great here in SC

  11. CC

    August 27, 2020 10:18 am

    Our government has NO say so on anything that Lamont has done. He has tied the hands of his legislative and other branches meanwhile seeking counsel in outside sources at the cost of our taxpayers money. There is NO REASON or evidence to back a necessary extension of emergency EO in this state. Lamont’s lying and deceptive devices have kept businesses from supporting their families and unnxessary mask mandates have kept the state locked in fear of another wave all based on ZERO transmission and evidence of these extremes. It would do our state a HUGE favor if Lamont would let our government do its job for it’s citizens.

  12. Citizen of a failing State

    August 27, 2020 9:58 am

    So now Governor are going to ignore the CDC because they don’t fit the narrative you are trying to sell in Connecticut!??? Unreal!
    We the people of Connecticut see what you are doing Governor, this grab to continue holding on to control is wrong. You are not a dictator and we do not live in a communist country. The curve has been flattened and the death rate continues to stay at zero and there are only 57 people being hospitalized. The need to continue to say that a public health emergency still exist has ended. What about all the other people that have been effected? The state economy is so dire right now, businesses have failed or left. Many people are still out of work and have to wait in lines for food, suicide is up, so is alcoholism and abuse. So for the few that are compromised the rest is of the country should stay home and the majority should suffer? It is time for the EO expire on September 9th and let We the People decide how to live our lives. Those that should stay home let them stay home (provide them with assistance) where they feel it is safe but for the rest of us, it is time to let us live our lives.

    FACTS! CDC- has ended 14 day quarantine for internationals entering the US.
    – admit masks don’t protect people from CoVid
    – say testing those exposed to asymptomatic do not require testing.

    • Pat

      August 27, 2020 6:10 pm

      Exactly!

  13. chari.norton

    August 27, 2020 9:45 am

    This should all be OVER. The data doesn’t lie. Science doesn’t lie. This all needs to end TODAY.
    Lamont and his wife need to be investigated.
    Being reported: “Last Sunday’s Hartford Courant reported that Ann Lamont had “taken a position” in one COVID-19 test company, Sema4. This report was entirely inaccurate. Sema4 is just the tip of the iceberg. Ann Huntress Lamont and the Governor are not profiting off one Covid test company, they are profiting off AT LEAST four. Oh and by the way it is not Sema4…it is Sema4, Semaphore, Sema4 Genomics, Mount Sinai Genomics, SemaC Electric, SEMACONNECT, etc. Sema4 is just the latest identifier in a long line of subsidiaries and shells.

    Ann and the Governor are also set to make Millions and Millions in months to come, as the two are major shareholders in the private companies responsible for, “new global clinical trials to treat patients with COVID-19″. These trials will end in treatments, treatments for Connecticut, and treatments for the World. Honestly, why do we even have laws?”

    • lynn d

      August 27, 2020 12:57 pm

      Well stated and I co.pltetly agree!

    • john feher

      August 30, 2020 5:44 am

      This is for Communist Lamont! Free the people ! G life is great here in SC

  14. dirtyjobsguy

    August 26, 2020 2:30 pm

    As the famous line from Star Wars says “It’s a trap!”. Lamont keeps delaying reopening steps while lacking a plan to deal with the inevitable few cases of COVID-19 over the long term. If you take credit for saving the state on that basis, you need a plan to declare victory. September will be the start of some unpleasant events. The airlines will layoff thousands, and Bradley Airport will see very few flights so many workers there will be permanently laid off. The outdoor dining season (favored by drought) is ending and the forecasted restaurant “mass extinction event” will occur. Pratt and Whitney and many subcontractors will start big layoffs as the commercial airline business contracts. The school reopening fiasco will hit full bore. The legislators will get an earful and more from local business owners on the failure to go to Phase 3. None of them will want to be the cause of the local landmark restaurants closing for good.

    People will hear from friends now living in Florida, Arizona and Texas on the higher level of normalcy and economic health.

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