Protestors at a rally at the state Capitol last year calling for the reopening of barber shops and hair salons closed due to COVID-19. Cloe Poisson /
Protestors at a rally at the state Capitol last year calling for the reopening of barber shops and hair salons. Cloe Poisson /

The Senate voted 33-2 Thursday night for final passage of a bill creating a bipartisan commission to recommend changes to the civil preparedness and public health laws that granted Gov. Ned Lamont sweeping powers to manage the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under legislation passed this week, the governor’s emergency pandemic powers technically have been extended for 60 days until July 20, though the last of the restrictions imposed on commerce and social gatherings expire next week.

Should the governor seek another extension, the bill limits renewals of the emergencies first declared on March 20, 2020 to 60 days if the legislature is in session and 180 days if it is not.

It also deems the renewal ineffective unless approved by majority votes in each chamber, and it requires a review of gubernatorial executive orders by a bipartisan committee of eight lawmakers.

Those conditions are likely to be considered by the bipartisan review commission as a framework for permanent changes to the state’s emergency powers laws.

Sen. Will Haskell, D-Westport, told the Senate there have been numerous lessons learned during the last 14 months.

Sen. Mae Flexer, D-Windham, and Sen. Rob Sampson, R-Wolcott, the co-chair and ranking member of the Government Administration and Elections Committee, cast the two negative votes without explanation during the debate.

Flexer said later that she saw no rationale for imposing conditions on extensions after July 20, which she saw as extremely unlikely to occur. She said she supported a review of making permanent changes to the emergency power laws. Sampson could not be reached.

Mark is the Capitol Bureau Chief and a co-founder of CT Mirror. He is a frequent contributor to WNPR, a former state politics writer for The Hartford Courant and Journal Inquirer, and contributor for The New York Times.

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