State legislature rolls back Cuomo emergency powers

Updated: Mar. 5, 2021 at 10:56 PM EST
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ALBANY, N.Y. (WWNY) - The state legislature rolled back Governor Cuomo’s emergency pandemic powers Friday.

The state senate voted 43-20, with Democrats in favor and Republicans opposed. Republicans argue the bill is all for show, and still leaves Cuomo firmly in control.

The state assembly passed the bill Friday night.

Governor Cuomo has indicated he’ll sign it.

“Today, under this new legislation the governor will no longer be able to issue any new directives, period,” said Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, like Cuomo, a Democrat.

“In light of recent events, however, it is clear that we need to move toward a system of increased oversight, review and verification between the Legislature and the executive branch, and also limit the powers granted to the governor.”

Republicans scoffed at the bill.

“This is like having a gentlemen’s agreement with someone who is not a gentleman. It doesn’t count. This governor is not gonna be truthful, he hasn’t been truthful,” said Robert Ortt, who leads Republicans in the state senate.

Friday’s action in the state legislature came as Cuomo faces twin scandals - claims he sexually harassed three women, and accusations his administration intentionally undercounted COVID deaths in New York’s nursing homes.

“If the Majority was serious about returning our state to a system of checks and balances, they wouldn’t have negotiated this backroom deal with the Governor, who in recent days has been the focus of very serious, troubling allegations,” said state senator Patty Ritchie.

“Simply put, legislation advanced today was nothing but a hollow political gesture that unfortunately, continues to prevent the Legislature from doing its job.”

The bill Democrats passed blocks Cuomo from issuing any new executive directives related to the pandemic. But it allows him to keep in place - and even modify - any of the 100 executive orders he’s already issued, as long as he notifies the Democratic leaders of the legislature and gives them a chance to comment.

That would appear to mean Cuomo retains broad power to regulate how businesses can operate during the pandemic, and can still exert control over things like whether people must wear masks.

As governor, Cuomo has always had the ability to issue executive orders, but his authority was expanded by the state legislature as the pandemic spread last spring.

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