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July 2, 2021

CT legislators to consider extension of emergency. This time, the public is invited

Mark Pazniokas | CT Mirror The House gallery will welcome visitors the next time lawmakers meet.

The General Assembly intends to meet the week of July 12 to consider a narrow extension of the governor’s emergency powers to manage the COVID-19 pandemic, House Speaker Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, said Thursday.

And the state Capitol will be open to the public.

The Capitol reopens Tuesday after the three-day Independence Day weekend for the first time since legislative leaders ordered it closed in March 2020 for what was then billed as a deep cleaning. It hadn’t reopened to the public when lawmakers convened in session this year from January until June 9.

Unlike other state buildings, the Capitol falls under the control of lawmakers, not the governor.

Many state workers who have been working remotely since the beginning of the pandemic began to return to their offices Thursday. Others in public-facing jobs mostly had returned a month ago.

“I think it’s safe,” Gov. Ned Lamont said Wednesday, before departing for his own three-day holiday break. “Overwhelmingly, folks are vaccinated now, seems to be a good time…to get folks back in the office.”

Josh Geballe, the state’s chief operating officer, said Thursday that masks initially will be required in common areas, regardless of vaccination status, though not at work stations that are at least six feet apart. There are no capacity limits in conference rooms or elevators.

“A lot of people have been coming into the office prior to today,” Geballe said. “It does’t really change things for a number of people.”

Remote work for eligible employees still will be allowed half the time, a continuation of a forced experiment begun in March 2020. Geballe said it has gone well.

“We obviously learned a lot as a state about how we can utilize telework in a number of different job classifications,” he said. “It can be very  beneficial for our employees, and our agencies, and the taxpayers.”

A law passed in May 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 a majority of each chamber, and it requires a review of gubernatorial executive orders by a bipartisan committee of eight lawmakers.

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