Ridgefield Community Gazette
Sunday, January 24, 2021 •
We asked candidates for State Senate and State Representative to comment on the Governor's extension of the Emergency Declaration through February 9, 2021
Senate District 24
Bethel, Danbury, New Fairfield and Sherman
Julie Kushner - D
Since the start of the pandemic, Governor Lamont and his team have led Connecticut with a steady hand and a science-based approach to combating Covid-19. This has led to Connecticut having one of the lowest rates of transmission of the virus. The administration's swift and deliberate actions have steadied the course where the rate of infection has hovered around 1 percent for most of the summer. Even still, we must not let our guard down, we are still amid a public health emergency. In fact, just two weeks ago, we were reminded of that when there was a spike of new cases in Danbury.
Since March, legislators, including myself, have been working in high gear -- weighing in with the Administration regarding Executive Orders, helping to craft guidelines and policies, holding hearings, like the hearings on the transmission of Covid-19 in nursing homes and other congregate living settings, and recently, the twice a week Appropriations hearings on Covid-19 funding allocations by the administration. In addition, we have been helping constituents with unemployment issues, insurance needs, and small business issues that have arisen because of the pandemic. Often this assistance has been lifesaving for people in this district.
The legislative body, which I am proud to be a part of, is foremost a deliberative body. While the legislative process may serve the varied, and sometimes competing, needs of the people of our state well, it is not designed to meet an ever-changing health crisis. Not to mention, that on occasion, partisan politics can interfere with sound decision-making.
The Governor has used his emergency powers judiciously. As legislators, we will continue to collaborate with, review and advise the Governor on the views and desires of our community. We will continue to work hard to ensure the safety and the security of the working families we represent. And, together, Connecticut will emerge from this difficult time united and ready to meet the challenges posed by a post-pandemic world.
Susan Chapman - R, I
The recent declaration by Gov. Ned Lamont that he has extended his executive powers through February 9th to give himself unilateral decision making authority due to the Corona Virus pandemic is troubling to say the least.
Likewise, the reasons given by Democrat leadership in the Legislature to roll over and acquiesce to the Governor's demands are not sufficient for our elected representatives and senators to simply bury their heads in the sand and not do their jobs.
According to published reports, Senate President Martin Looney (D-New Haven) indicated that the state legislature wasn't nimble enough to appropriately react to changes surrounding the pandemic to make legislative decisions and take action during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a clear indictment of the current majority and a major reason we need to change the people we send to Hartford to represent us and our interests.
The Legislature is co-equal branch of state government and the best policy outcomes usually come from collaborating with executive and judicial branches whenever possible. Our representatives need to get back to work on our behalf, rather than just kicking the can down the road during election season.
We all want to make smart decisions during these uncertain times. Passing the buck and not asking the tough questions or making difficult decisions will not benefit Connecticut residents. We can and must do better.
Senate District 26
Bethel, New Canaan, Redding, Ridgefield, Weston, Westport and Wilton
Will Haskell - D
When it comes to tackling the challenges of COVID-19, we need strong, measured leadership. Governor Lamont's extension of his emergency powers is essential to keeping Connecticut on its current path of declining case rates and economic recovery. Given the likelihood of a second wave of the virus in the coming months, Governor Lamont must have the ability to make urgent, science-led decisions. The extension not only allows the governor to enact emergency orders like requiring temporary school closures and post-travel quarantines, but also ensures that his existing orders, which have proven incredibly effective, stay in place. Governor Lamont's actions have not only contained the viral spread, but have also saved our local businesses and homeowners through initiatives like the eviction moratorium, mortgage relief program, and no-interest small business loan program.
This action does not reflect a usurpation of power. Rather, it is a testament to the severity of this public health and economic crisis, as well as Connecticut's commitment to getting our state back on track as safely as possible. When public health and the state of our economy are on the line, our legislative process simply cannot adapt quickly enough to immediately prevent illness, evictions, and the shuttering of businesses. We must ensure that our state's leader has the capacity to take necessary actions to halt the spread of COVID-19, saving lives â€" and our economy â€" in the process. Governor Lamont has proven himself a tempered and effective leader during what has been a devastating time for our state, nation, and world. How many lives and jobs must be lost and businesses must close until we put our economy, public health, and science over frivolous political debate? I, for one, am not willing to find out.
Kim Healy - R, I
Governor Lamont's announcement that he will extend his emergency powers through February of next year seriously concerns me.
In a time of emergency, it is reasonable to have the Governor make important decisions to safeguard the lives of our citizens. This past March, when Covid-19 posed a major threat to Connecticut, especially to certain segments of our population, that declaration of emergency was justifiable. To extend those powers out to an entire year is difficult to comprehend and hard to justify.
Connecticut has flattened the curve and now we have very low rates of infection. Our town and state officials have been able to successfully monitor and control spread when it is discovered. This is due in part to state action, but also to low population density and the willingness for most people to comply with medical advice regarding social distancing and masks.
With so much damage done to our economy nearly seven months into this pandemic, should we not be focused on returning to normal?
So far, Governor Lamont's emergency powers have had mixed results at best. Our rates of infection and death have plummeted. This is a great accomplishment that would have resulted from a stay-at-home order issued from the Assembly as much as it did when it came from the Governor. Governor Lamont hired expensive consultants from outside of Connecticut and still managed to transmit mixed messages to our residents and business owners. Many of those were costly and avoidable.
It may not be possible to have complete normalcy, but one major step in that direction would be to allow our legislature to do its job. Which is to say, to let the people have their say again in their own government. I believe this would make for a more accountable and competent policy agenda going forward.
Senate District 30
Brookfield, Canaan, Cornwall, Goshen, Kent, Litchfield, Morris, New Milford, North Canaan, Salisbury, Sharon, Torrington, Warren and Winchester
David Gronbach - D
Our State Senator has a Role to Play, But Refuses to Do So
There is no doubt Covid-19 continues to present a Public Health Emergency. We see spikes in California, Sturgis, the South East and Midwest. Even in Connecticut there have been recent outbreaks. Executive action is needed to respond to changing circumstances quickly and avoid the widespread disruption we saw in March.
Elected representatives still have work to do. At the very least, Republicans and Democrats can continue to promote social distancing and mask wearing to prevent spread. We can advocate for our communities as they struggle to respond to the Pandemic. I wrote to the DEEP Commissioner for resources to help our communities respond to people overwhelming parks, rivers, and lakes.
I promoted the creation of distance-learning centers to accommodate parents that work outside the home. The community center I helped create in New Milford now acts as a distance-learning center with expanded daycare. Elected officials can help businesses/individuals access federal funding and support community groups responding to local needs. Senator Miner has remained silent.
While the Governor continues to respond to the Pandemic, our State Senators can provide constructive criticism of the Governor's policies WITH proposed solutions. For instance, the Governor has changed course in response to criticism about school openings; nail and hair salon protections; and Covid-19 spread in nursing homes.
In the midst of this Pandemic, my priority as your State Senator will be to advocate for our communities and work with the Governor, not just throw stones.
Craig Miner - R
Under the heading of Civil Preparedness Emergencies, the Governor's power is almost without limit.
During our lifetime executive orders have been used mostly for severe weather events. Â All have ended shortly after power was restored and roads cleared. Even after 9/11, emergency orders eventually disappeared, and life went on. Â
Today is far different. No one knows when this emergency will be over. Governor Lamont has yet to clarify what benchmarks or goals would need to be reached to move past this point.
The majority of Connecticut residents, myself included, have supported most if not all of the Governor's directives designed to keep us safe. Â In the last 60 days, 133 people in CT reportedly died from COVID-19. Compared to the prior four months when 4332 perished, we are on a better path. Â But during the same period, the list of failing or failed business has grown. Â We also have a looming state deficit that rivals the Great Recession. So while I hear praise, I also hear anger. Â Landlords are struggling to support their families because they have not been paid rent despite many tenets receiving an extra $2400 per month in federal aid. Â Businesses operating under the 50% capacity rule are struggling and the people they employ are at risk of their jobs disappearing. People want to know: when do we move to some form of phase 3?
Governor Lamont's extension of his emergency power to early February carries with it unprecedented responsibility to all Connecticut citizens. Â Every order now in effect should be completely reevaluated and designed with benchmarks to clearly indicate when we can return to â€śnormalcy.â€ťÂ The Governor should be redoubling his effort to find solutions so that Phase 3 businesses can open in some form so they too might survive. Â School reopenings thus far have been managed well and collaboratively. That model of collaboration should be applied to all other matters that remain before us.
House District 2
Bethel, Danbury, Newtown and Redding
Raghib Allie-Brennan - D
Representative Allie-Brennan has not provided a statement as of press deadline. We will update our website when a statement is provided.
Dan Carter - R, I
Most people in my area generally approve of Governor Lamont's handling of the pandemic, although there have been some questions about him playing favorites, like concealing how much money the state is paying for Coronavirus testing. While there are some who feel he has gone too far, most people haven't raised Lamont to tyrant status, at least not yet.
We should be far more concerned about the leaders in the legislature abdicating their responsibility. Given Connecticut's long history of one-party rule, it's not a surprise that the leaders in the legislature are willing to rubber-stamp an extension to Governor Lamont's emergency authority. Some see this as a power grab, but even with the Progressive Democrats driving the party, Lamont already has all the power because the Democrats have complete control of state government. We can expect every Democrat, especially my opponent, to fall in line and sing Lamont's praises and totally miss the point that they actually have a job to do, the job of representing us.
Lamont is also missing an opportunity. In a time when we should be united, he should have brought together the legislature and allowed the representatives of the people to define and approve the scope of his authority. Lamont could have at least showed his openness for bi-partisanship in handling the Covid-19 crisis, which will be crucial to a successful recovery from the pandemic.
The Governor and the leaders in the legislature have sent us a clear message. Expect more of the same in Hartford, instead of working together for new solutions. One party is still in charge and instead of working with Republicans to get the economy back on track, they will likely stick with what they know best - creating new taxes that drive people and jobs out of our state.
House District 107
Bethel, Brookfield and Danbury
Kerri Colombo - DWhile Donald Trump and his enablers would like people to think the pandemic is over, the hard truth is that it is not. Cases and deaths continue to rise across America. Just next door in Danbury we have seen a dangerous increase in COVID-19, and an increase of cases in Brookfield these past few weeks too. We must remain vigilant on this holiday weekend and while moving forward.
Thankfully, our economy is beginning to recover, and no one can deny the exceptional job Governor Lamont has done throughout this pandemic. His quick, responsive leadership has made Connecticut a national leader in dealing with COVID-19. We have the lowest contagion rate in the nation, and we are well positioned to weather this pandemic economically with a now $3.1 billion rainy day fund which my opponent wanted to gut right before this pandemic hit. These executive powers have kept us safe and will continue to do so as the situation quickly changes. The Governor continues to work closely with the legislature while providing a timely response to the needs of the people that is critical to our success.
Stephen Harding - R, IIt is undeniable that our state and nation has faced a terrifying emergency since March due to the Covid-19 outbreak. The threat to the public rapidly evolved with profound uncertainty and tragic loss of life. Fortunately, Connecticut has emerged as a national leader for stemming the tide of the spread of the virus, under the watch of Governor Lamont. I thank him for his leadership during this difficult time. In my opinion, and in the opinion of many others, the restrictions and orders he put in place saved many lives and helped to stem the tide, as previously mentioned. As valuable and as necessary as these restrictions are, we, as legislators though, cannot be completely unaware of the fact that during this time many businesses in our community have suffered and unemployment has surged. As the pandemic continues to remain, I still believe that many of these Executive Orders and Executive powers remain necessary at this time. With that said though, the extensions of these orders should be done under the guidance of health professionals, along with legislative collaboration and insight.
The constituents of our district and residents across our State should not be shutout of the decision-making process, and I highly encourage the Governor's Office to collaborate with legislators on both sides of the aisle when continuing to issue Executive Orders through the rest of this year and potentially into the next. The legislature has a Constitutional and moral obligation to govern and represent their constituents, and I view that as a fundamental obligation for all of us.
House District 106
Rebekah Harriman-Stites - DThe Governor made the difficult decision to extend his Executive Order under the guidance and input of public health officials. During a pandemic, professional opinion and guidance from public health experts are imperative -- and I have an enormous amount of trust in them and in science. Our Governor and Public Health experts, along with other essential staff, service workers and medical workers, have given their expertise and because of this, Connecticut is a leader in flattening the COVID-19 curve.
I understand the hesitation of some members of the legislature to embrace this extension -- I too am wary, when a temporary power is extended for an individual.
In Connecticut, we have done exceptionally well in curbing our infection, hospitalization, and morbidity rates, in large part to the Governor's executive orders, and the willingness of our population to comply. However, most of the United States has not done as well. Over 187,000 people have lost their lives in an exceptionally short amount of time. We still need broad and unprecedented public health initiatives and safety measures in place. COVID does not wait for an 187 member part-time legislature to debate issues before a community outbreak happens. This crisis is NOT over. And a return to business as usual simply is not safe or prudent at this time.
I support the Governor's actions, and continue to defer to the public health experts as to what needs to be done to continue to combat this deadly virus. Once we see a clear ending or containment of this disease, not only in this state, but regionally and nationally, I fully expect the Governor to return his emergency powers and have confidence that he will do so.
Mitch Bolinsky - RRepresentative Bolinsky has not provided a statement as of press deadline. We will update our website when a statement is provided.
House District 111
Aimee Berger-Girvalo - DOur state, like the country at large, is facing several ongoing crises, including the continuing public health threat of COVID-19 and the related economic downturn that has devastated so many families. And unfortunately, all signs point to us grappling with these issues for months to come. It's time for the state legislature to step up and play a bigger role in our recovery.
The protections and emergency measures we have put in place in Connecticut were a direct result of Gov. Lamont's need to act quickly on this crisis with respect for data and scientific expertise â€" something we're sorely lacking at the national level. These emergency measures are exactly why our state was able to change course and get to the lowest transmission rates in the country. If the emergency measures were allowed to expire on September 9th, it would immediately end statewide rules on wearing masks, closing bars, and limiting large public gatherings.
This is a hard time for everyone, but it is clear we still need these protections in place for the time being â€" for the safety of our families and our neighbors. In fact, one need only look to our neighbors in Danbury, where the positive test rate spiked to above 7% recently to know that the crisis hasn't passed.
But now, as we enter the sixth month of this graduated shutdown, it's clear that the COVID pandemic was never going to â€śsimply disappearâ€ť as the President famously and falsely claimed.
So why hasn't the legislature reconvened and used its power to codify these policies into law?
Emergency powers should be utilized for imminent threats, but this is our new normal. It's unacceptable for the legislature to not have a role in crafting laws for long-term policy needs.
Hartford needs to step up and do its job.
Bob Hebert - RGovernor Lamont recently made headlines when he announced that he would extend his emergency powers by five months. It triggered a brief but fierce debate, not necessarily about the details of the executive orders he's installed since March, but rather the role the legislature should play in shaping policy that meets the needs of an improved public health situation.
By and large, state legislatorsâ€"individuals who know first-hand what's happening in their townsâ€"have been on the pandemic policy bench since the governor's emergency declarations in March. Since then, he's run Connecticut through executive order, taking action that has had a far-reaching impact on our lives. His broad power was scheduled to end Sept. 9. When the governor renewed his authority, a committee of ten legislators decided whether to overturn his extension and perhaps inject a bit of normalcy into how the state is run.
There was a debate about whether that committee would even meet, with the panel's majority Democrats signaling their support to have the governor keep his seat behind the wheel.
Republicans, meanwhile, wanted to have at least a conversation about the controversial decision to extend the governor's power beyond the start of the next legislative session.
After all, though the pandemic remains, Connecticut's situation has improved dramatically since March. For me, that means the way we govern should reflect that positive change.
I won't disagree that Governor Lamont deserves good marks for much of his work since spring, but I find fault in what's been a go-it-alone approach. Long term, that philosophy won't serve Connecticut wellâ€"our state, and the concerns of its residents and business community, are simply too diverse to keep heading down the current path.
I wouldn't have supported the recent extension of Governor Lamont's broad powers, and instead favor a more collaborative approach that would give you, through your representative or senator, more say in the decisions being made in Hartford.
House District 135
Easton, Redding and Weston
Anne Hughes - DRepresentative Hughes has not provided a statement as of press deadline. We will update our website when a statement is provided.
John Shaban - R, IThe emergency executive orders that the Governor imposed in March and April were arguably acceptable due to the uncertain numbers and the uncertain science at that time. Since then we have â€śflattened the curve,â€ť identified folks who need to get isolated and/or treated quickly, and have reduced the infection rates to that of a normal pathogen. I am hesitant to sit by and let the Governor again act unilaterally and in contravention of our State Constitution.
Published by Publishing Partners Group, LLC
A Member of The Ridgefield Chamber of Commerce, The National Newspaper Association and the Society of Professional Journalists