Lamont seeks to extend emergency powers

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By Paul Hughes, Republican-American

HARTFORD — Gov. Ned Lamont said Tuesday he will need to extend his emergency powers to continue to respond to changing circumstances in the COVID-19 pandemic past May.

Lamont did not indicate for how long he will seek to continue the public health and civil preparedness emergencies that give him extraordinary authority to set rules and suspend or modify state laws, regulations and requirements.

The latest joint emergency declarations and related executive orders were due to sunset Tuesday, but legislation the General Assembly approved in March extended the orders to May 20 and authorized Lamont to renew the current declarations to that date.

The governor filed a renewal of the states of emergency with Secretary of the State Denise W. Merrill on Tuesday.

Lamont said earlier Tuesday he believes after May 20 he will continue to need the ability to take executive action to react to changing circumstances, such as emerging variants of the virus or matters relating to vaccinations.

“We want to keep an emergency declaration in place,” he said.

Lamont said an extension also is needed to continue to qualify for federal pandemic assistance, including funding and other resources from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. This is something the governor and top aides previously had indicated would be necessary.

Under state law, a governor can declare a public health emergency or a civil preparedness emergency for a maximum of six months. State law authorizes select committees of legislative leaders to disapprove such declarations within a 72-hour window.

State lawmakers are considering making changes to the two emergency statutes.

Lamont issued a series of new executive orders Tuesday pursuant to the newly filed declarations that consolidates many of the previously issued orders related to the pandemic and extends the duration of others. The governor’s office said the move reduces the number of executive orders by roughly 60%.

Among other things, the consolidated orders permit the Department of Economic and Community Development to continue issuing and enforcing rules for businesses, waiving state contracting rules to procure essential goods, services and real estate to respond to the pandemic, and allowing state regulators to restrict visitation at congregate facilities to limit the risk of viral transmission.

In other coronavirus news Tuesday, the number of reported COVID-19 cases since last March reached 332,139. State health officials reported 738 new cases out of 21,338 tests results received Monday for an infection rate of 3.5%.

There was a net increase of 13 patients hospitalized for a total of 507 statewide. Six more deaths also were reported. There now have been 8,020 deaths attributed to COVID-19 or complications from the viral disease.

State health officials reported there have been 3,366 cases in Naugatuck, 887 in Prospect and 542 in Beacon Falls since last March.

There have been 89 coronavirus-associated deaths in Naugatuck, six in Beacon Falls and five in Prospect, according to state officials.

Elio Gugliotti contributed to this report.