(The Center Square) – Gov. Chris Sununu has extended a state of emergency for another two weeks as state lawmakers weigh a plan that would curtail the governor's powers during future emergencies.
Sununu announced on Friday that his administration will be extending the emergency declaration by 14 days.
In a statement, Sununu pointed out that the state has lifted the majority of the COVID-19 restrictions in recent weeks as it winds down its response to the pandemic.
"Granite Staters have managed through this pandemic incredibly well, and as a result of their hard work, New Hampshire has no commercial restrictions in place, no statewide mask mandate, and is open for business," Sununu said.
Sununu said extending the order will give lawmakers time to take up "critical emergency orders that have brought flexibility to manage through this pandemic." He called on lawmakers to "move swiftly" so that that state can end the emergency declaration "as quickly as possible.”
The move to extend the state of emergency comes as lawmakers consider proposals and curtailing the governor's unilateral powers under public health emergencies.
A measure approved by the state Senate last week would require renewal of emergency orders every 30 days by the legislature after the initial declaration.
It also would require the governor to obtain legislative approval to spend federal relief money exceeding $100,000 related to the declared emergency.
Under current law, the governor must renew the emergency declaration every 21 days, but the governor does not need legislative approval.
The bill's primary sponsor, Sen. Sharon Carson, R-Londonderry, said the proposal would not impact the current state of emergency and would set important guard rails on the executive branches authority during future emergencies, public health-related or otherwise.
“This bill is an important effort to ensure balance between oversight during states of emergency and public safety during times of crisis," Carson said in remarks ahead of the vote.
The legislation is among two dozen bills filed in the current session aimed at placing checks and balances on the governor's emergency powers.
A similar proposal was included in the House version of the state budget, but the Senate balked at adding that provision to its version of the spending plan.
Sen. Donna Soucy, D-Manchester, who supported the proposal, pointed out the proposed changes aren't meant as a criticism of the Sununu administration's handling of the crisis.
"This isn't about our current governor, or a past governor," Soucy said in remarks last Thursday. "This is about how the executive, whomever ... she happens to be, operates in a state of emergency and how we ourselves engage in that process."