Anti-mask protesters greet CT lawmakers returning for legislative session

Anti-mask protesters greeted Connecticut lawmakers Wednesday as they headed back to Hartford for the return of the legislative session and Gov. Ned Lamont's State of the State address.
The protesters made it clear they want the state to drop all school mask rules. They want state lawmakers to reject 11 of Lamont's COVID orders during Thursday's vote.
The most controversial order would let the state Education Department bring back a statewide mask mandate even after it ends in three weeks.
Connecticut House Speaker Matt Ritter says the choice cannot be left up to the parents alone yet.
"Because at the end of the day, we've tried to allow scientific experts to tell us what works best," Ritter said.
Lamont delivered his first in-person State of the State address Wednesday in two years.
"Three years ago, we were standing at the edge of a fiscal cliff, facing a $3.7 billion budget deficit. Today, we're deciding what taxes to cut and what schools programs to grow," Lamont said.
Lamont's budget calls for $336 million in tax cuts, including the hated car tax. To combat crime, he wants to spend $72 million.
There's also half a billion to boost the state safety net and a quarter-billion for COVID tests and PPE.
But Republicans are not impressed.
"He's increasing a lot of spending and has implemented gimmicks to get around the spending cap," said Connecticut House Minority Leader Vin Candelora.
Lamont's likely rival for governor, Bob Stefanowski, isn't impressed either.
"He's talking about adding 500 police officers. The city of New Haven is down 100 by themselves. You've got officers working 80 hours a week with no break," said Stefanowski.
The protesters have one message for the governor: the COVID emergency needs to end.
Lawmakers will be back Thursday for an all-day debate on Lamont's COVID orders.