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Several COVID-19 policies extended through June in emergency bill

Rep. Greg Howard was one of several Republicans complaining the public was not heard on the bill.
Rep. Greg Howard was one of several Republicans complaining the public was not heard on the bill.

The House of Representatives voted along party lines Wednesday for final passage of an emergency bill that extends until June 30 several COVID-19 policies that began as executive orders and then were codified in state law.

The content of Senate Bill 493was less controversial than its origins as emergency orders by Gov. Ned Lamont and its arrival now as an emergency-certified bill that reached the floor without a public hearing or committee review.

“It is imperative when we get these bills that we hear from the public,” said Rep. Greg Howard, R-North Stonington. “I think we just avoided the process here.”

The House vote was 90-49, with 13 members not voting. One Democrat, Rep. Michael DiGiovancarlo of Waterbury, voted with the Republicans in opposition.

The Senate passed it Tuesday on a 19-13 vote, with all Republicans opposed and four Democrats absent.

Rep. Gale Mastrofranceso, R-Wolcott, suggested lawmakers are wary of and fatigued by anything connected to the governor’s executive orders and emergency powers, which were extended six times before ending.

“I feel like I’m in a sequel to the movie ‘Groundhog Day,’” she said.

Rep. Michael D’Agostino, D-Hamden, defended the bill as an extension of useful emergency policies on access to vaccination records, temporary credentials for nurses, assistance for landlords and eviction protections for tenants.

One of the provisions allowed the state to temporarily license 1,300 nurses in during a nursing shortage, he said.

As far as the process, D’Agostino pushed back at Republicans who characterized the action as an extension of the governor’s emergency powers. Those have expired, and the provisions at issue were codified in state law with a sunset date they now are extending.

“That’s all we’re doing today — extending our legislative power, and nothing more,” he said.


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