Connecticut Senate is expected to extend Lamont's remaining COVID orders
The Connecticut Senate was expected Monday to temporarily extend some of Gov. Ned Lamont’s remaining pandemic-related executive orders, including a statewide mask mandate for schools and child care centers the Democrat has said he wants lifted February 28.
The planned vote in the Democratic-controlled Senate follows last week's 86-62 vote in the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives.
Senate President Pro Tempore Martin Looney, D-New Haven, who has said his personal preference would be to continue a statewide mask mandate, told reporters he will support Lamont's plan, which he called a compromise. He noted school boards could impose their own mask requirements beyond this month if they choose.
“I'll certainly support what we're going to vote on. The boards still have the option to maintain that mandate to the end of the school year, if they choose to," he said. ”I hope they will."
As in the House, debate in the Senate is expected to focus on whether any mandate is still needed. Many Republicans have argued that parents should now be the ones deciding whether their children should wear masks in school, not state or local government officials, given the state's improving COVID infection rate.
Besides the masking requirement, other executive orders being extended include requiring vaccination or testing for nursing home visitors; relaxing certain training and hiring requirements for medical professionals to address staffing shortages; and waiving bidding requirements to procure goods and services needed to respond to the pandemic.
The legislation also provides a 30-day stay of eviction proceedings in cases where landlords are still awaiting approval for financial assistance under a state program, and it continues an order requiring that nursing home staff be fully vaccinated with a booster shot. They faced a Febraury 11 deadline to get a booster, but the bill extends the deadline to March 7. Most of the executive orders are scheduled to expire April 15.
The Senate is also expected to pass a separate resolution that continues the state’s public health and civil preparedness emergencies through June 30.
Supporters have stressed that the resolution doesn’t extend Lamont’s extraordinary powers, something the GOP has strongly opposed. Rather, Democrats say the states of emergency are necessary so Connecticut can keep getting federal pandemic relief funds, including roughly $31 million a month in extra benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.