ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN) — Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie announced Tuesday that they plan to introduce legislation to strip emergency powers from Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
These powers were granted at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.
Lawmakers granted the governor temporary emergency powers to make sure a speedy and safe response to the pandemic. This gave the governor broader powers like the ability to issue executive orders and was set to expire on April 30.
The legislation will allow current public health directives to stay in place for 30 days following the passing of the legislation. These directives deal with controlling the spread of COVID-19, vaccination efforts and wearing a face covering. The directives can still be extended or modified but certain steps need to take place in order to do so.
The governor will have 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. Orders that do not pertain to the COVID-19 pandemic cannot be adjusted.
If a local government is directly impacted by an executive order, the leadership there will have an opportunity to comment on any extension 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 lawmakers 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.
Statement from Rochester-area Assemblymember Harry Bronson:
“Last year, when COVID-19 first threw our state into turmoil and so much was unknown and uncertain, an overwhelmingly bipartisan legislative majority granted the governor emergency powers to quickly deal with the sudden crisis. It is now time to get back to a normal working order.
With the advent of the COVID-19 vaccine, and with the end of our state and national pandemic in sight, I join my colleagues to revoke the governor’s extraordinary powers granted to him at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
Recent revelations and allegations have also demonstrated a need to revoke the governor’s emergency powers. The underreporting of nursing home deaths, and a directive to prevent families from visiting their loved ones for months, have had disastrous effects on the physical and emotional wellbeing of our most vulnerable senior citizens and their families. In addition, it has resulted in the loss of trust in our institutions at a time it’s needed the most.
While these emergency powers were set to expire in April, it is imperative we act now. This action, taken on the part of the legislature, will restore the balance of power and start to rebuild the trust in our institutions.
We are still facing many challenges: getting our families vaccinated, rebuilding our economy, getting our children back into the classroom, addressing the mental health crisis, and work on an end to institutional racism, I look forward to working hard to solve those issues.”