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COVID-19: New York State Legislature set to repeal Gov. Cuomo's emergency powers

Submitted + Updated

Tue, Mar 2nd 2021 04:05 pm

GOP questions timing of decison

Democrats New York State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie on Tuesday announced the New York State Legislature will pass legislation repealing the temporary emergency powers that were granted to Gov. Andrew Cuomo last year at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The legislation will allow current directives pertaining to preserving the public health to continue.

“I think everyone understands where we were back in March and where we are now,” Stewart-Cousins said. “We certainly see the need for a quick response, but also want to move toward a system of increased oversight, and review. The public deserves to have checks and balances. Our proposal would create a system with increased input while at the same time ensuring New Yorkers continue to be protected.”

Heastie said, “A year into the pandemic – and as New Yorkers receive the vaccine – the temporary emergency powers have served their purpose – it is time for them to be repealed. These temporary emergency powers were granted as New York was devastated by a virus we knew nothing about. Now it is time for our government to return to regular order.”

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the New York State Legislature passed legislation to give the governor emergency powers to allow a nimble response as a global pandemic struck New York. These temporary emergency powers allowed the governor broader powers to issue executive orders, and are set to expire on April 30. The legislation introduced here will repeal the temporary emergency powers immediately, while allowing executive actions critical to public health to remain. 

Standing directives taken by executive action that manage the spread or reduction of COVID-19, facilitate the vaccination process or require use of face coverings, will remain in effect for an additional 30 days. While these can then be extended or modified, the governor will be required to notify relevant Senate and Assembly committee chairs as well as the temporary president of the Senate and the speaker of the Assembly with the need for the extension or modification, and the threat to public health and safety, and provide an opportunity to comment. The governor cannot extend actions beyond the first 30 days unless they explicitly relate to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Directives can be modified to revise the number of individuals, businesses or entities impacted by an executive order – for example, individuals eligible for vaccination or seating capacity of a business. Directives will not be continuously modified or extended unless the governor has responded to comments provided by the chairs of relevant committees.

Where a local government in the state is exclusively impacted by an ongoing executive action, the local government leadership will also receive notice and an opportunity to comment on the continuation or modification.

Fifteen days after the legislation goes into effect, all current suspensions and directives will be posted on the website of the governor in a searchable format, and include details on such suspensions and directives, including the public health and safety reasons any directives were extended or modified. Every 30 days after, the website will be updated to include responses to written comments or information requests from relevant committee chairs or municipal government entities.

The legislation will also allow the Legislature to repeal a declared state of emergency by joint resolution, and will keep disease outbreaks in the definition of disaster situation that can be subject to a state of emergency.

Response

Democrat Assemblyman Jonathan Rivera stated, “Prior to my time in the NYS Assembly and in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the State Legislature granted Gov. Cuomo emergency powers. With quick actions needed to protect the health and safety of all New Yorkers, it was the right thing to do at the time. It is now clear that the emergency powers need to be revoked, and we need to restore a proper balance in state government while continuing to keep people safe.

“That is why I support and will co-sponsor legislation that that will repeal the governor’s emergency power. The measure – agreed upon with the Senate – immediately revokes the emergency powers and ensures legislative oversight of changes to state laws or directives. Key legislative committee chairs will be involved, and the governor will have to work transparently and collaboratively on efforts to combat the pandemic. This legislation also increases the control and power of local governments.

“I believe the legislation responsibly reestablishes a clear balance of power and provides more accountability as we fight to finally end this pandemic. We are moving in the right direction with the state’s infection rates declining and more and more people getting vaccinated. My colleagues and I remain committed to putting New Yorkers first and helping our communities and the economy rebuild.”

Senate Republican Leader Rob Ortt said, “Senate Republicans advanced the first proposal to end Gov. Cuomo’s emergency powers 279 days ago. Today, panicking Democrats were finally forced into a corner after the governor’s coverup of 15,000 nursing home deaths, the decimation of thousands of New Yorkers, and multiple scandals and investigations being led by both the FBI and the state attorney general surrounding the governor’s office.

“Our conference has listened to New Yorkers’ pleas to strip the governor’s powers. We advanced an amendment to do so 19 times. Each and every one of those times, not a single Senate Democrat stood with us in this effort to restore checks and balances to Albany. Today, as they announced this bogus backroom deal, they turned their back on New Yorkers yet again, voting no on our amendment to remove the executive powers.

“So while Senate Democrats finally seem to be in agreement that the ‘temporary emergency powers have served their purpose,’ my question is, ‘What took so long?’ ”

GOP Assemblyman Mike Norris noted, “As I have said many times since last July, the governor’s extraordinary powers must come to an end. Finally, the Assembly speaker and the Senate majority leader just announced that the governor’s extraordinary powers will be revoked going forward. This action is long overdue and should have occurred many months ago, but I must say I am eager to read the fine print of this proposal from the downstate-driven majorities.

“As our small businesses continue to struggle, the nursing home death data count has been underreported by the administration, and the vaccine rollout remains chaotic, it is so imperative that the duly elected Legislature reclaims our constitutional authority immediately to reinsert our voice and input on these and many more issues on behalf of the people we represent.”

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