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GOP lawmaker from Ledyard sues Lamont, challenges pandemic state of emergency

A Republican lawmaker is suing Gov. Ned Lamont saying that continuing the public health emergency during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic is “completely meritless" because the state is not facing a “major disaster.”

The lawsuit challenging Lamont’s emergency powers was filed was by state Rep. Mike France, a Republican from Ledyard, along with several small businesses and Audrey Hussey, a resident who was fined for violating the state’s travel restriction order.

The suit, filed Friday in Superior Court in Hartford, asks a judge to vacate Lamont’s civil preparedness orders and executive orders and prevent the governor from filing similar declarations again if he does not meet the criteria laid out in state statute. Lamont first declared a state of emergency on March 10 and on Sept. 1 he extended it to Feb. 9, 2021.

The lawsuit, which names Lamont as the sole defendant, alleges that the conditions outlined by statute were not present when Lamont declared a civil preparedness emergency. The legislature also did not approve Lamont issuing a public health emergency.

“These executive orders have affected Connecticut’s residents, businesses, and visitors by negatively impacting on their rights of association, congregation, and conducting business in the state, as well as travel by its residents outside the state, among other rights,” the lawsuit reads.

A spokesman for Lamont declined to comment.

Lamont declared a public health emergency in March as concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic swelled across the state. Within weeks, hundreds of people were sickened and hospitalized with the virus. To date, more than 54,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19 and more than 4,400 have died.

The suit against Lamont further alleges that he used the state of emergency to issue more than 70 executive orders that modified or suspended state statutes. The lawsuit goes on to contend that the governor reissued a public health emergency despite the fact that recent data from the Department of Public Health shows the rate of infection decreasing across Connecticut.

The lawsuit argues that the pandemic does not meet criteria under state law for a “serious disaster."

“Despite declaring a civil preparedness emergency, the defendant has not identified any incident of ‘serious disaster or ... enemy attack, sabotage or other hostile action within the state or a neighboring state, or ... the imminence of such an event,'" the lawsuit states.

The suit argues that given the available public health data, Lamont’s continued “usurpation” of the legislature in continuing the public health emergency is “completely meritless.”

A special committee of lawmakers met last week and voted, along party lines, to extend Lamont’s emergency powers. A Republican effort to block the extension failed six to four.

The lawsuit filed Friday echoes concerns among some Republican lawmakers and Connecticut residents that Lamont has amassed too much power during the pandemic through the emergency declarations. A number of protests have sprung up in recent weeks challenging the governor’s emergency orders.

It is unclear from judicial records if the state has yet been served with the lawsuit. Similar lawsuits have failed to garner much relief for the plaintiffs, who have sought to nullify Lamont’s orders that once barred people from eating at restaurants or visiting bars.

France and other plaintiffs are represented by Craig Fishbien and Doug Dubitsky, fellow Republican state representatives.

 

 

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