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Thumb Twiddling While Coronavirus Sacks Connecticut

Nursing homes in Connecticut were sacked by Coronavirus -- the way an invading, colonizing army sacks a small, unarmed village -- while the attentions of politicians in the state were devoted chiefly to a) creating largely unnecessary space in hospitals for potential Coronavirus admissions, b) dangerously shuttering people in their houses, c) depriving Connecticut citizens of their work space, d) closing businesses unilaterally deemed  “non-essential” by the governor’s office, and e) running up an enormous state debt in the face of a recession wholly caused by poor decisions made by state politicians – but not all politicians at all times; the legislative branch of government in Connecticut was in hibernation as Coronavirus ravaged the state.

Months after nursing home deaths accounted for more than half of total deaths in the state attributable to Coronavirus, the news has begun to trickle up to news services in Connecticut. “Out of the state’s more than 3,500 deaths,” Connecticut Public Radio noted on May 21, “DPH records indicate more than half the people who died were residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities.” The Feds are now involved in investigating nursing home deaths among workers

The quiet and solitary deaths in nursing homes are but the tip of a very large iceberg. “Thirty million Americans have been forced into the ranks of the unemployed by government fiat” a FrontPage writer remarks. “Hundreds of thousands of small business owners, upon being forced by the same governmental decrees to close their doors, have been divested of their livelihoods, robbed of the blood, sweat, and tears that they spent years investing in pursuit of their versions of the American Dream.”


And the dispossession in many cases will be permanent. Constitutional rights and the liberties of free people have been severely proscribed. Indeed, civilization as we know it, which necessarily involves unobstructed communal associations – schools, churches, legislatures, courts – has been alarmingly set back. Many hospitals have been driven toward bankruptcy because they could not perform elective surgeries. They could not perform elective surgeries because people who were ill and terrified were avoiding doctors' closed offices and hospitals crowded with empty beds – forgive the expression – like the plague. When some of them, housebound died from neglect, some family members told they could not attend the funerals of their loved ones, and funeral masses were disallowed because all church services were shut down. Death in hospitals, nursing homes and among the general public has been a solitary affair. Suicide and domestic violence has increased dramatically. And life itself – unless we unthinkingly submit to the unprincipled and possibly unconstitutional edicts of our governors – will become, we are daily cautioned, “nasty, brutal and short,” a Hobbesian view of life and nature in a Godless universe deprived of Christian consolation.


Connecticut’s shutdown economy is pretty much on life support; so are state revenues. Connecticut’s spurned Republican caucus in the defunct General Assembly has begun a petition for a special legislative session to “Address the Governor’s Executive Orders.” The legislative powers rented by the governor from the General Assembly are not due to expire until September. Until that time, we are to suppose, the sidelined General Assembly will be comfortable having transferred its constitutional powers and responsibilities to Lamont, who appears to be having some difficulty applying his unprincipled obiter dicta to a collapsing economy.

The Yankee Institute reports, "Since the public emergency declaration 78 days ago on March 10, Lamont has issued 49 executive orders affecting schools, tax collection, regulations, public health and the way municipalities handle their business, the sixth highest number of executive orders, according to a review of executive orders in all fifty states compiled by the National Council of State Legislatures."

If one asks who is advising the governor in these perilous times – certainly not the people’s representatives in the General Assembly – one is told that the governor had been receiving advice on how the economy may best be opened from the Reopen Connecticut Advisory Group (RCAG), disbanded after The Council of Non-Essential Businesses (CNEB), a group consisting of roughly 100 business owners who were forced to close their doors to the public during the public health crisis, filed a freedom of Information request that certainly would have shattered the wall of secrecy Lamont had erected between his operations and his advisory councils.


The governor has now awarded “a $2 million no-bid state contract to the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) to advise the governor’s office on how best to reopen the state,” according to a story publish by Yankee Institute. Though the new group, at least in its advisory function, operates as a mini-legislature in the absence of over-view by the people’s representatives in the General Assembly, it is not certain at this point whether the new group, operating behind an iron curtain, will be subject to state FOI laws.


“Nobody knows this state and what this state needs to get back to work better than the people of Connecticut,” said CNEB's attorney John Bolton “But we’re contracting out legislation to unelected and unaccountable groups.” Outgoing Republican leader in the state House Themis Klarides offered in a press statement, “Gov. Lamont, on one hand, preaches transparency, and then conducts business behind closed doors without any consideration of FOIA laws.” And outgoing Republican leader in the State Senate Len Fasano added, “The governor made promises that reopening would involve stakeholders, Connecticut medical experts, local job creators, and legislative leaders. But now we know the truth that this consultancy company is driving public policy.”


All this is mildly reassuring. If Democrat legislators continue to resist doing their jobs, they should be fired at the voting booth in the next election. The General Assembly has been neutered far too long during the Coronavirus shutdown. Republican (small "r") government may be a little messy, but unconstitutional and autocratic executive privilege is deadly to democracy. A bill requiring a formal legislative assent of executive emergency powers -- possibly by a super-majority -- beyond a prescribed and reasonable time limit may be necessary so that the General Assembly once again may operate in a constitutional manner. Also, a court suit by aggrieved members of the General Assembly -- they certainly have standing -- may be necessary to bring around recalcitrant legislators.



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