Yankee Institute applauds many of the actions Gov. Ned Lamont has taken since assuming emergency powers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Indeed, the governor has rolled back some regulations that Yankee has, for years, identified as harmful to Connecticut.
But extending those powers – with the acquiescence of the leadership of the legislative majority – until February is an unprecedented abrogation of authority to the governor. During the 1918 flu pandemic, the legislature still functioned. It is unclear why this time, everything must be different.
The governor has assumed, and now extended, his “emergency powers” without providing any basis to the public for determining when the public health emergency is actually over. Instead, the governor has arbitrarily set a date for his powers to expire, seemingly without regard to whether the coronavirus has remained a “substantial risk of a significant number of human fatalities” (as set forth in the emergency statute) or whether a vaccine has been developed. No guidance has been offered as to when – or whether – the government will decide the emergency has ended; the people of Connecticut are left merely to wait and wonder, stuck in Phase 2 of the reopening schedule even has hospitalization rates continue to decline and remain low.
No doubt it is easier and more efficient for the governor to retain emergency powers indefinitely – but that is not our system of government, and that is not how a healthy representative democracy functions. Just because the outcome of unfettered power may be agreeable in certain instances does make it wise to continue down this road. Legislative leaders should disapprove of the extension and then move to hold a special session in order to ratify some of Gov. Lamont’s executive orders into law.
If the General Assembly can convene quickly to pass a police accountability bill (much of which does not take effect for years), then it can move just as quickly to ensure that the people of Connecticut — the people who elected these very same lawmakers — are represented at the Capitol. It is time for the governor to loosen his grip on unilateral control of the state, and time for the legislature to begin behaving like what it is: a co-equal branch of our state’s government.
Statement attributable to Carol Platt Liebau, President of Yankee Institute for Public Policy