ALBANY, N.Y. — New York lawmakers reached an agreement Tuesday to rescind and limit Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s sweeping emergency pandemic powers.
With the governor facing swirling scandals related to sexual harassment claims and his administration’s handling of nursing home COVID deaths, legislative leaders said it’s time to restore “checks and balances.”
The legislation introduced by Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers, and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, D-Bronx, will immediately repeal the temporary emergency powers granted to the governor last year, while allowing some executive actions critical to public health to remain in place.
“These temporary emergency powers were granted as New York was devastated by a virus we knew nothing about,” Heastie said in a statement. “Now it is time for our government to return to regular order.”
Under the proposal, 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. They can then be renewed but will be subject to review by the Legislature.
Fifteen days after the legislation goes into effect, all current suspensions and directives must be posted on the state website in a searchable format that includes details on the actions, including the reasoning behind any extensions or modifications.
“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.
“Our proposal would create a system with increased input while at the same time ensuring New Yorkers continue to be protected,” she added.
The Legislature’s move comes as the governor faces calls for his ouster over sexual harassment allegations, which are being probed by Attorney General Letitia James, and a federal investigation into the state’s alleged under-counting of nursing home deaths during the COVID crisis.
Cuomo’s emergency powers were set to expire April 30, but calls to strip him of the broad authority used to shutter restaurants, restrict travel and other public safety measures grew in recent weeks. The governor has come under fire following a blistering report from James’ office accusing state officials of underreporting nursing home deaths, and critics have cried foul over the administration’s decision to stonewall state lawmakers seeking data top Cuomo aides admitted could be potentially politically damaging.
Republicans have blasted Cuomo’s fellow Democrats, who control both chambers, for not acting sooner and repeatedly introduced hostile amendments in an attempt to revoke Cuomo’s executive authority.
Heastie’s office pushed back Tuesday ahead of the agreement being announced, slamming GOP lawmakers for making political hay out of the matter.
“Instead of helping to move our state forward, Assembly Republicans are working overtime to stall efforts to help our communities by playing politics during a time when New Yorkers can least afford it,” Heastie spokesman Michael Whyland said in a statement.
If formally introduced on Tuesday, lawmakers could vote on the bill as soon as Friday. Should Cuomo decide to veto the measure, Democrats hold a veto-proof supermajority in both chambers.
A representative for the governor did not immediately respond to a request for comment.