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Legislature To End Cuomo’s Executive Powers

Gov. Andrew Cuomo. AP photo

The state Legislature will repeal Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s emergency powers — though Chautauqua County’s state representatives are wondering what took their Democratic colleagues so long.

Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Buffalo, and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, D-Bronx, have announced the state Legislature will pass legislation that repeals Cuomo’s ability to issue new directives but allows 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. 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,” Stewart-Cousins said.

Standing directives taken by executive action which 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.

State Sen. George Borrello, R-Sunset Bay, is among the Republicans who have called for Cuomo’s executive authority to be curtailed. Contacted by The Post-Journal on Tuesday afternoon, Borrello said important parts of the state’s COVID-19 strategy have been mismanaged — and the blame in his eyes lies with Cuomo, who had full authority to make decisions.

“Tomorrow marks a grim anniversary,” Borrello said. “It is one year since the governor was given sweeping and unprecedented emergency authority. Despite the devastation caused by the governor’s mismanagement of nursing homes, our economy and the vaccine rollout, the majority leadership in Albany has sat on its hands. Even as bombshell evidence and allegations came to light, and after 19 attempts by the Senate Republicans to limit his power, they refused to take any action. So while I am certainly glad to see that the majority will finally be offering some kind of check on the governor’s power, it’s far too late and won’t undue the damage that’s been done.”

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.

Legislative Republicans have tried countless times over the past several months to end Cuomo’s executive powers, most recently last week when Senate Republicans introduced a hostile amendment written by Sen. Alessandra Biaggi, D-Bronx, after 14 Senate Democrats had signed a letter saying they thought Cuomo should lose his expanded executive authority. The GOP’s effort in the Senate failed when no Democrats crossed party lines.

Republicans in the Assembly were never able to get their amendment to the floor.

“Yes, it is agreed we need to review nursing home policies and do our job, but all these things we’re passing today don’t mean anything as long as the governor retains his emergency powers because he can simply override those by executive order and therein lies the problem,” said Sen. Rob Ortt, R-Lockport and Senate minority leader. “It is high time this body gets back to a coequal branch of government. This is about restoring the legislature to a coequal branch of government. It’s about being able to provide oversight and accountability of an executive who has shown gross disrespect for every member of this body — Democrat and Republican — and more importantly has shown disrespect for the people that we represent.”

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