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Gov. ‘Hall Pass’ Debated By Assembly Candidates

Andrew Goodell, R-Jamestown, right, is seeking to keep his seat in the New York State Legislature. He is facing a challenge by Democrat Christina Cardinale, left.

Editor’s note: This is the first of a four-part debate between candidates for New York State Assembly.

Christina Cardinale believes Andrew Goodell made his bed when he voted on legislation that allowed Gov. Andrew Cuomo to expand his emergency powers during a disaster.

So now he must lie in it, the Democratic candidate for the 150th state Assembly district believes.

“If I tell my husband that he has a hall pass and he can screw around on me, and then he goes and does it, I don’t really think that I have the right to get mad,” Cardinale said during a debate held by The Post-Journal and OBSERVER.

“Well I never gave the governor a hall pass,” responded Goodell, R-Jamestown, who is seeking to retain his seat in the New York State Assembly.

Goodell has criticized the governor for his “one-size-fits-all” approach in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. He has introduced legislation requiring every emergency declaration from the governor to be based on a county-by-county analysis, with a detailed explanation for each county based on specific facts and circumstances in each county. All declarations, under his bill, would be in effect for 30 days but could be extended by the governor for an additional 15 days for a total of 45 days.

“I’ve recognized the issue,” Goodell said of Cuomo’s handling of the pandemic early on. “I was up front. I think what he did was great for New York, and had horrific, unnecessary damage to upstate New York.”

However, Cardinale believes any criticism lobbed at Cuomo over his actions should first be directed to those who voted on legislation that expanded the governor’s powers in the first place.

That law, signed in early March while there were just a handful of COVID-19 cases in New York state, also provided $40 million to local health officials to combat the virus.

“I do not agree with the legislative body’s decision to vote to give the executive power to the governor,” Cardinale said. “By doing this, they have essentially deemed themselves obsolete, ineffective. They have effectively removed themselves as the checks and balances system because they put it to a vote and it was in the COVID bill that they all voted on. And it’s very, very specific. It says in there that the governor is going to do what the governor wants to do.”

The bill was criticized by both Republicans and Democrats and resulted in lengthy debate before it ultimately passed. Goodell, R-Jamestown, was among those who voted for the legislation, a move Cardinale said meant he was married to what it included in its entirety.

“I have zero compassion for the Assembly people and the Senate who are currently fighting the governor and his executive powers because they voted for him to have those powers,” said Cardinale, who stated she would not have voted for the bill had she been a member of the state Assembly. “They have signed away their voice and the voice of their constituents, including you sir.”

Goodell was quick to defend his vote, noting that the bill contained more than one component, sometimes known in Albany as “the big ugly” when legislation tackles more than one objective.

He said the law added “disease outbreak” to the list of reasons the governor can declare a state of emergency. It also stated that all executive orders were subject to the state and federal constitution; laws could only be suspended temporarily and be reasonably necessary; and required the governor to appoint a specialist to “avoid needless, adverse effects” resulting from the suspension of laws.

But more importantly, Goodell said, the law provided $40 million to expand testing capabilities in the state.

“You can’t vote for half a bill,” said Goodell, later noting that with what was known at the time, it was important to receive the appropriation of funding for testing.

“I think what the governor did, in relation to New York City, was appropriate,” he said. “The public health outbreak in New York City was extraordinary. It needed strong, decisive action. (Cuomo) provided it, and I thought his actions were appropriate. At the same time I have consistently disagreed with the governor’s use of a one-size-fits-all approach.”

Cardinale said those who had issues with the legislation could have separated the two components — Cuomo’s expansion of emergency management powers and appropriation of money for testing — into different bills.

“I started out with the expectation that the governor will follow the law in good faith,” Goodell said, “but when he didn’t, when he abused the power, I introduced legislation to curb it.”

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