Fiorello: Freedom vs Government Control

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The Connecticut General Assembly has gaveled in and is now in session to do the people’s business for 2022.  On Opening Day, February 9, Governor Lamont gave his State of the State address in the House chambers in-person, unlike last year when it was via Zoom. A memorable part of his speech was when he said, “I believe it’s time to end the statewide school mask mandate and enable each and every board of education to decide what is best for their schools. From a public health perspective, you have earned this freedom…”

What’s striking are two things: (1) that the Governor has a blind spot in not believing parents know what is best for their children, instead believing that boards of education knows what is best for children, and (2) that as the Governor of the Constitution State he needs to be reminded that We the People established government to protect our inalienable rights, so the concept of citizens earning their freedom back from government is anathema.  

Indeed, the Governor’s speech set the stage for what came next.  Votes taken in the House and in the Senate on the COVID emergency declarations and codification of the governor’s remaining executive orders showed a crystal-clear contrast between how politicians who support more freedom for citizens differ from politicians who want more government control. Those votes make it clear to Connecticut voters where each member of the legislature stands, and in this election year, they will have a choice between two distinct points of view. Not Republican versus Democrat; that’s very 2020.  In 2022, it’s Freedom versus Government Control.  

Take the COVID emergency declarations.  After an unprecedented 707 days (since March 10, 2020) of being in a declared public health emergency, and with civil preparedness emergency rules in effect that granted the Governor extraordinary powers to rule by fiat, Governor Lamont finally relinquished his emergency powers on February 15, 2022.  In contrast, governors in neighboring states like New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts saw fit to end their COVID emergency declarations in the summer of 2021.  

But where the governor left off, the legislature picked up. Citing Article 3 of the Connecticut Constitution that vests the General Assembly with broad police powers, including those necessary to protect public health and safety, the majority party passed House Joint Resolution No. 1 declaring the state to be in a public health emergency and civil preparedness emergency through June 30, 2022.  Another 140 days of heavy-handed government control. 

We know more about how to treat COVID today than we did a year ago.  And many of us have opted to get vaccinated, 93% of the people in Connecticut have received at least one dose of vaccine and 77% are considered fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  

Are we really in a state-wide emergency when on September 14, the same day as the Senate voted to declare the new states of the emergency, a headline in a leading newspaper  proclaimed, “St. Patrick’s Day parades are back across Connecticut.”  Right now, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is reporting that Connecticut has 417 inpatient beds in use for COVID out of 7,531 total beds.  That’s 5.6%.  For sure, every single hospitalization is an emergency for that person and their family, but not for the entire state.

For the legislature to declare not one but two emergencies – public health and civil preparedness — when that is not our reality is an abuse of its power.  

Why did the legislature do it?  They said “for money” because making these declarations entitled Connecticut to receive additional federal funding – equivalent to at least $95 more per month for those already receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program funding for economically disadvantaged citizens of our state.  

It cannot be denied that $95 extra per month is $95 extra per month.  That is a real material gain for those receiving these funds.  Still, we who cherish freedom care not only about immediate material outcomes, but also care about spiritual outcomes and the effects on daily lives and the economic well-being that the continued states of emergency will have.  I believe the majority of citizens of all economic brackets want their government to act with honesty and integrity, not just act to grab more dollars from the federal government, especially when they know those dollars will be paid for by inflationary pressures causing higher food and gas prices or additional taxes.  

Instead of giving out more handouts that keep many of our citizens dependent on government for support and diminishing their souls, how about trying policies that actually lift people out of poverty permanently?  How about policies to take smaller chunks out of people’s paychecks so they can have more money to spend on their needs, values and ideas?  How about policies to reduce some of the bossy rules and paper work required of business owners and managers that take their energy and focus away from their enterprises, workers, and customers, hurting everyone, except those who work for government?  I believe that is what most residents of our state desire. 

Which brings me back to the first days of this session when the Connecticut General Assembly voted to lump-sum codify all 11 remaining executive orders without holding public hearings on each of them.  The results?  Our children will be forcibly masked in school until at least February 28 and possibly June 30, depending on the opinions of the Commissioners of Education and Public Health and their local boards of education.  Nursing home managers will continue to face serious staffing shortages because of resistance among their workers to the vaccine mandate, which now includes booster shots.   

In 2022, it is about more freedom versus more government control.  I hope citizens will not be able to un-see what they can see so clearly now.  And dots will connect.  From the legislature’s declarations of state-wide emergencies to no excuse absentee ballot voting, again, when it is not allowed by our state Constitution.  It is incumbent on citizens who value freedom to speak out, write letters, sign petitions, engage friends and neighbors, organize groups, attend rallies, and maybe even run for office this fall on freedom-focused platforms.  If they do, victory will be theirs.  It can be done.

Kimberly Fiorello, a Republican, serves as State Representative for the 149th District which includes the towns of Greenwich and Stamford.