Lawmakers from New York's Assembly and state Senate have decided to strip the state's Governor Andrew Cuomo of his emergency powers granted to him early last year to manage the response to the pandemic and bring coronavirus-related matters back under local jurisdiction.
“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,” Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said in a statement released on Tuesday.
The temporary measures, which were taken at the beginning of the pandemic when the state was the hardest-hit area in the US, gave Cuomo greater powers to issue executive orders, and were set to expire on April 30.
The bill introduced on Tuesday would repeal the powers immediately, thereby enabling executive measures vital to public health to continue.
"Standing directives taken by executive action which 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," the statement reads. "The governor cannot extend actions beyond the first 30 days unless they explicitly relate to the COVID-19 pandemic."
The statement specifically indicates that already issued directives cannot be changed after 30 days of their prolonged action until Cuomo "has responded to comments provided by the chairs of relevant committees."
"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," the statement concludes.
Cuomo's administration is subject to an independent inquiry into the sexual harassment allegations headed by the state attorney general's office, as a third woman came out with accusations of inappropriate behavior on Monday. He also faces an investigation into the nursing home deaths that were allegedly concealed from the federal government.
Over the last year, Cuomo has issued several executive orders, including on the closing of public schools, mandatory work from home for workers, limiting transport and imposing limitations on the work of public catering establishments.