State lawmakers pass bill to get more power over how COVID-19 relief money is spent

Connecticut is getting a big chunk of the latest COVID-19 relief plan - around $10 billion. But Tuesday afternoon, state lawmakers voted to shift control of it away from Gov. Lamont’s office.

News 12 Staff

Mar 16, 2021, 11:14 PM

Updated 1,160 days ago

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Connecticut is getting a big chunk of the latest COVID-19 relief plan - around $10 billion. About $2.6 billion of that is headed to the state government. State lawmakers voted Tuesday afternoon to shift control of it away from Gov. Ned Lamont’s office.
For the past year, the governor’s office has been calling the shots on how all federal money is spent due to his emergency powers. On Tuesday, the Connecticut House passed a bill requiring Lamont to submit a spending plan for the new American Rescue Plan to lawmakers by April 26. The governor could still veto any changes they make.
President Joe Biden signed the massive plan last week.
"This bill puts working people in this nation first," said Biden.
Workers are getting $1,400 stimulus checks. But the state is also getting a windfall. Now, state lawmakers want a say in how that money gets spent.
"Recognizing that we want to pump the brakes a little bit on spending, and ensure the spending is really done - being done - in a collaborative way," says Connecticut House Majority Leader Rep. Jason Rojas.
Lamont has doled out money from Washington, but his emergency powers end in a month.
The new bill passed Tuesday gives Lamont until April 26 to submit a spending plan. Until May 16, the state budget committees can submit changes.
Then, the full General Assembly has until June 9 to approve the plan. Lamont can still veto it.
The plan unanimously passed the Connecticut House this afternoon.
"There's talk generally that this is sort of a power grab, and I don't view this piece of legislation that way," says Connecticut House Minority Leader Rep. Vin Candelora.
Much of Connecticut's new money is already spoken for. Congress says it must be used for things like schools, rental assistance or unemployment.
The House speaker promises that Lamont will still have flexibility.
"There's probably going to be a need for some contingency funds for the agencies to respond in real time. You may have to ramp up testing or vaccinations in a certain area, or a new strain could come along," says Connecticut House Speaker Matt Ritter.
Lamont's office negotiated with the House on the bill. It now goes to the Senate.
Lamont's Chief of Staff Paul Mounds tells News 12 in a statement, “This legislation is consistent with Gov. Lamont’s approach since the beginning of the pandemic, which has been to work with the legislative branch throughout the pandemic emergency on critical decisions. Further, this proposal codifies the transparent process followed by the Lamont Administration and the Office of Policy and Management since the federal government acted to provided support to states. All expenses relating to federal funding have been posted online and reported to the General Assembly and Office of the Comptroller. As the governor has said for weeks, he is supportive and encourages discussion and collaboration with leadership in the General Assembly on decisions as we appear to be seeing more light at the end of the tunnel as vaccine distribution continues at the current rapid pace. The legislative and executive branches must continue work together to help our state emerge from this pandemic stronger than ever before.”
Lamont's executive orders expire on April 20. There's a meeting on Thursday about which ones will stick around and become law.
Ritter says some things, like mask mandates, might be tied to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance instead of having a hard-and-fast ending date.


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