Gov. Andrew Cuomo discussed his administration's handing of the COVID-19 crisis in long-term care facilities on Feb. 15.
Courtesy photo: Darren McGee/Office of the Governor

State legislators voted yesterday to strip Gov. Andrew Cuomo of his emergency powers with a bill Republican legislators say is being misrepresented by the Democratic majority.

The legislation revokes the governor’s ability to issue new directives, but it allows to stand existing public health orders he issued during the pandemic.

The bill provides more legislative oversight of the existing orders by allowing the legislature to overturn the governor’s orders with a simple majority vote. It gives the legislature the power to end the state of emergency. It also removes the April 30 sunset clause included in the Emergency Powers Act passed last year.

“The ‘revocation’ clause highlighted in this bill does nothing to restore the legislature as a coequal branch of state government, nor does it rein in the scandal-clad governor’s emergency powers,” State Senator Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) said in a press release last night.

“This legislation is merely intended to provide cover for the legislative majorities while granting Gov. Cuomo total control of state government for the foreseeable future,” Palumbo said.

Assemblywoman Jodi Giglio (R-Baiting Hollow) said the state leaders are playing “disgusting” games with the public and the press.

“This bill does not do what they’re reporting it does,” Giglio said. “It is rewarding the governor’s bad behavior.”

Giglio said because the bill expands and indefinitely extends the governor’s emergency powers, “I could not in good conscience support it.”

Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor), who supported the bill, said he has been advocating to restore the legislature as a coequal branch of government since last spring, when he introduced a bill that would have required the governor’s emergency actions to be subject to legislative review every 30 days.

The bill passed by both chambers this week “immediately revokes the emergency powers and ensures legislative oversight of changes to state laws or directives,” Thiele said in a press release. “Key legislative committee chairs will be involved and the governor will have to work transparently and collaboratively on efforts to combat the pandemic. This legislation also increases the control and power of local governments, which is imperative,” he said.

“is should not be a partisan issue, but a matter of protecting constitutional checks and balances,” Thiele said.

But Palumbo said the bill sends the message that the legislative leadership is “ok with extending complete control of the government to a governor who is embroiled in two major controversies and is under investigation by federal and state officials.”

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are accusing the governor of a cover-up in his administration’s reporting of the death toll among long-term care residents in the state — and both Republicans and Democrats are calling on Cuomo to resign or be impeached.

As the controversy over the nursing home death reporting grew with new revelations about actions by his top aides, Cuomo in the past two weeks has been accused of sexual harassment by two female staffers.

“These scandals undermine the governor’s ability to conduct his official duties and have irreparably damaged the public’s trust in the state’s top executive,” Palumbo said.

“Even as members of their own party are calling for the governor’s resignation,” Palumbo said, “the legislative leaders continue to block any real attempt to rescind the governor’s emergency powers.”

Cuomo has used his emergency powers to issue 96 executive orders since the first executive order issued March 7 last year, declaring a state of emergency and effectively seizing control of the operations of state government. He has since issued hundreds of directives that modify or suspend state laws and regulations

The survival of local journalism depends on your support.
We are a small family-owned operation. You rely on us to stay informed, and we depend on you to make our work possible. Just a few dollars can help us continue to bring this important service to our community.
Support RiverheadLOCAL today.