Legislature set to repeal Cuomo's emergency powers, COVID-19 directives to remain in effect

Updated: March 04, 2021 08:57 PM
Created: March 02, 2021 04:25 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — The New York State Legislature is set to pass legislation repealing the emergency powers granted to Gov. Andrew Cuomo last year at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The bill could be passed as soon as Friday according to a press release from the Legislature.

This comes as Cuomo is facing a probe and backlash for allegations that his administration withheld nursing home COVID-19 death data in an attempt to avoid being investigated by the Trump administration as well as allegations of sexually harassing multiple women.

Those temporary emergency powers expanded the governor’s powers to issue executive orders, and are set to expire on April 30. 

The legislation introduced Tuesday by Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie will repeal the emergency powers immediately while allowing executive actions critical to public health to remain in effect.

Executive orders related to the COVID-19 vaccination process and the mask mandate will remain in effect for 30 more days. They can be extended or modified, but Cuomo will be required to notify relevant Senate and Assembly committee chairs and the temporary president of the Senate and the speaker of the Assembly.

The governor cannot extend actions beyond the first 30 days unless they explicitly relate to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Orders will be able to be modified to revise the number of individuals, businesses or entities impacted by an executive order, such as who is eligible for vaccination or seating capacity of a business.

In cases where a local government is exclusively impacted by an ongoing executive action, the local government will also receive a notice and opportunity to comment on the continuation or modification. 

Assemblymember Harry Bronson (D, 138) released the following statement:

“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.” 

Senate Republican Leader Rob Ortt released the following statement on the legislation:

"Senate Republicans advanced the first proposal to end Governor 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?"

Assemblymember Jen Lunsford (D, 135) released the following statement:

"In Support of the Majority Plan to Revoke the Governor’s Powers Last Spring, our state and nation faced an unprecedented public health crisis, and decisive action was necessary to preserve the health and lives of New Yorkers.  

In the intervening year, we have navigated some of the toughest days in the history of our state, and have begun to distribute the vaccine which will bring a return to normalcy. 

The legislation announced today by Speaker Carl Heastie to revoke the Governor’s extraordinary emergency powers recognizes how far we have come from the darkest days of 2020.  We have taken a careful and nuanced approach to restoring the balance of power that gives due consideration to the ongoing needs of the people of this state as we mount our final assault on this deadly disease. We are narrowly tailoring our approach to those policies which remain vital to the continued success of our vaccine rollout to ensure we do not lose the ground we’ve fought so hard to gain. 

I am proud to support the introduction of this legislation, and I will cast a vote in favor of it.   I am disappointed in several of my colleagues in the minority who chose to politicize public health, rather than productively contribute to the next step in our COVID recovery. In their zeal to score points against the Governor they attempted to force through a dangerous and ill-thought plan that puts the health and safety of our people at risk.  Their silence as former President Trump’s wanton disregard and political gamesmanship contributed to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans was deafening, and should never be forgotten. I applaud the patience and restraint the Speaker and my colleagues in the majority showed to craft smart legislation that keeps us on a path towards victory against COVID-19 rather than bowing to outside pressure to simply reflexively revoke the Governor’s powers."

Copyright 2021 - WHEC-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company