Assembly minority leader wants to limit Cuomo’s expanded powers during pandemic

Updated: May. 29, 2020 at 4:53 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - Why is it Governor Cuomo and not state lawmakers making the decisions during the pandemic?

Well, it's because of a state law approved by state legislators as the pandemic began to hit, allowing the governor to suspend laws and regulations during a state of emergency.

Now some lawmakers are having second thoughts about so much power given to one person for so long.

7 News anchor John Moore spoke with the minority leader of the state Assembly, Republican Will Barclay of Pulaski, who discussed Albany's action of nearly 3 months ago that set events in motion.

"We passed a law back in March that allowed him these extraordinary powers that he has to deal with the pandemic. And at that time we didn't know what we were facing. That bill actually included $40 million, which is a quaint sum now. We've spent $3 billion on this pandemic, but at the time it seemed we wanted to make sure there was enough money to help fight this pandemic and we wanted to make sure the governor had the powers. But now we've moved several months down the road now and I think people are questioning some of the decisions the governor is making and should one man be making all these decisions for 19.5 million New Yorkers? So I think people are starting to rethink it, I know people in the legislature, which I'm thankful for, now are starting to rethink some of the powers we granted. In our area, they were thinking of going to Phase 2 and then the governor pulled that back and you heard the outrage. And I think that plays to one of the reasons maybe he should have some checks on his power," said Barclay.

When asked if Barclay has a sense that the populace is at a state of discontent where they may start flouting what the governor is ordering, he said, " Well, maybe the populace, but I question whether local officials are starting to feel that way. And it's really because of missing guidance. Some of this stuff, if we just had guidance, protocols that are easily understood, if you hit these protocols, when you're a business, either you hit it or you don't hit it and you can open up. We have these kind of broad things about testing, which is important and getting the tracers. Those are such broad measures, they don't really affect the people on the ground. If I'm a business, can I open next week, can't I? You have to make big decisions, John, you have to make payroll decisions, staffing decisions, you're well aware of. So other states, it seems to me, like South Carolina, I've heard Texas, have very clear rules of how they were reopening. And it seems like New York doesn't have those rules and some of it is arbitrary and the governor, it seems like he does a press conference and kind of we all wait to see what he's going to say and lo and behold maybe you're open and maybe you're not, but it all seems very confusing and some of it seems very arbitrary."

On Thursday, the Democrat-controlled Assembly rejected Barclay's amendment to limit the governor's and increase local authority during future emergencies, and a similar bill failed in the state senate.

However, Barclay said he feels he made his point and thinks that some Democrats will join his cause.

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