State legislature reaches deal to repeal Governor Cuomo's emergency powers

Posted at 4:03 PM, Mar 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-03 15:59:49-05

ALBANY, N.Y. (WKBW) — The New York State Legislature has reached a deal to repeal Governor Andrew Cuomo's emergency powers.

Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie made the announcement Tuesday.

The legislature will pass legislation repealing the temporary emergency powers that were granted to Cuomo at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. It will allow current directives related to preserving the public health to continue.

“I think everyone understands where we were back in March and where we are now. We certainly see the need for a quick response but also want to move toward a system of increased oversight, and review. The public deserves to have checks and balances. Our proposal would create a system with increased input while at the same time ensuring New Yorkers continue to be protected,” Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins said.

“A year into the pandemic, and as New Yorkers receive the vaccine, the temporary emergency powers have served their purpose – it is time for them to be repealed,” Speaker Heastie said. “These temporary emergency powers were granted as New York was devastated by a virus we knew nothing about. Now it is time for our government to return to regular order.”

Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes said she's hopeful the deal will be voted on Friday, but could be voted on Monday depending on the timing of things Tuesday night. She said the legislature rules require a bill to age for three days before a vote.

Legislation was passed at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to give Cuomo the emergency powers to respond to the pandemic.

"These temporary emergency powers allowed the governor broader powers to issue executive orders, and are set to expire on April 30. The legislation introduced today will repeal the temporary emergency powers immediately, while allowing executive actions critical to public health to remain," a release says.

Officials say standing directives taken by executive action related to the spread or reduction of COVID-19, facilitate the vaccination process or require use of face coverings, will remain in place for an additional 30 days.

According to officials, directives can be modified to revise the number of individuals, businesses or entities impacted by an executive order such as individuals eligible for vaccination or seating capacity of a business.

"Directives will not be continuously modified or extended unless the governor has responded to comments provided by the chairs of relevant committees," a release says.

Officials say where a local government is impacted by an ongoing executive action, it will receive notice and an opportunity to comment on the continuation or modification.

Peoples-Stokes said lower COVID-19 rates and more people getting the vaccine mean emergency powers are no longer needed.

“If the governor had not had those executive, extraordinary executive powers, we’d probably still be where we were, or if not where we were at least close to where we were," said Peoples-Stokes. "So there is a reason why those executive powers, and there’s a reason why it is now time to remove them."

Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt said he's happy to see the deal being discussed, but said this could have happened sooner. He said a bill to repeal the governor's emergency powers was struck down 19 times this session.

“The rescinding of the governor’s powers shouldn’t be like punishment," Ortt said. "That’s not gonna bring closure or justice to the women, that’s not gonna bring closure or justice to the people who lost loved ones in nursing homes, that should’ve happened months ago because the legislature wanted to get back to he job of legislating.”

Assembylmember Steve Hawley said amendments that would rescind the governor's emergency powers were attached to the end of every bill in the Assembly Tuesday.

“Every member of the majority voted against rescinding his emergency powers, and all of our conference voted for rescinding them,” Hawley said.

Several local Democratic state lawmakers said they support the repeal, including Assembylmember Monica Wallace who said she is co-sponsoring the legislation.

The deal comes one day after a third allegation involving Cuomo was made public. Peoples-Stokes said the allegations did not play a role in her support of revoking emergency powers.

She said the conversation about repealing powers have been occurring for the past couple of weeks.

15 days after the legislation goes into effect, all current suspensions and directives will be posted on the governor's website in a searchable format and include information on any extensions or modifications.

According to officials, "the legislation will also allow the legislature to repeal a declared State of Emergency by joint resolution, and will keep disease outbreaks in the definition of disaster situation that can be subject to a state of emergency."

Several elected officials previously called for the revocation of the governor's emergency powers due to the state's handling of COVID-19 in nursing homes.

Our state has come a long way from where we were in March 2020 because of New Yorkers’ strength and response to control the pandemic. With COVID cases declining, and the vaccine rollout continuing, we have an opportunity to address the recovery process of this pandemic and create a new vision for how disaster response is handled in New York State. We now need to move toward a system of increased oversight and review between the Legislature and the Executive branch. Under the legislation that the Senate Majority is advancing, the Governor will no longer be able to issue any new directives. Our proposal creates a system with increased input while at the same time ensuring New Yorkers continue to be protected and the oversight they expect is in place. The Senate Democratic Majority is focused on delivering results and passing legislation that prioritizes the health, safety, and recovery of New York State.
New York State Senator Sean Ryan (D-Buffalo)

Those calls were renewed by several elected leaders following allegations of sexual harassment against the governor.

7 Eyewitness News reached out to the governor's office and has not heard back.