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House committees hear emergency order backlash bills

The Associated Press
Published: 3/1/2021 8:34:12 PM
Modified: 3/1/2021 8:34:09 PM

CONCORD — Two House committees heard testimony Monday on a batch of bills born out of the backlash against Republican Gov. Chris Sununu’s actions during the coronavirus pandemic.

Sununu first declared a state of emergency on March 13, and has renewed the declaration every three weeks since then. During that time, he also has issued more than 80 emergency orders.

The committees held public hearings on 10 bills related to the governor’s authority in both areas.

Under current law, a state of emergency can be terminated by the Legislature if both the House and Senate agree, and one of the proposals would seek to do just that. Another bill would allow just one chamber to make that decision, while others would give lawmakers the authority to terminate individual orders as well.

“These bills would jeopardize our response to COVID-19 and hinder our ability to vaccinate our most vulnerable citizens as fast as possible,” Sununu said in a statement. “In times of crisis, a chief executive must be able to move swiftly. These bills were designed for political headlines, and I unequivocally oppose them.”

Other bills would require the governor to spell out the conditions necessary to extend a state of emergency and would require legislative approval to do so beyond 21 days. Under a different bill, all emergency orders would expire after 21 days unless approved by a newly-created legislative oversight committee.

Polls show strong bipartisan approval of how Sununu has handled the pandemic, and he easily won reelection to a third term in November. But he has faced pushback from within the Republican party on many of the restrictions he enacted.

“Our governor decided to take the route which was comfortable, favorable to many people, under the guise of empathy and protecting you, as opposed to promoting personal responsibility and asking you to protect yourself if you are an at-risk person,” former state Rep. Jeff Oligny, R-Plaistow, told the legislative administration committee.

Vermont begins process of returning state workers to offices

MONTPELIER — The state of Vermont is getting ready to make it possible for more state employees to return to their pre-pandemic workplaces, Administration Secretary Susanne Young said Monday.

Due to improving pandemic conditions, beginning April 1 state officials will be able to authorize requests from more workers to return to their worksite, if they would like to and if there is enough capacity to do so in the office while meeting state distancing guidelines.

In general, though, state employees who can telework should expect to do so through at least May 31, she said.

The state is also preparing for a post-pandemic environment. The results of an employee survey will be taken into account.

“A majority of employees who responded to the survey expressed interest in continuing to work remotely on either a full or part-time basis,” Young said in a statement.

Maple month

Some maple producers in New Hampshire are welcoming visitors this season, with coronavirus-related restrictions in place.

March is considered Maple Month in New Hampshire, with open houses held at maple businesses. The state’s “Maple Weekend” is March 20-21. Most operations had to close last year when the pandemic started, but this year, some will allow limited visitors, with social distancing, face masks, and other requirements.

At the Eldridge Family Sugar House in Tamworth, for example, time slot tours will be held during the last two weekends of the month.

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