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NYS Senate proposal would limit Governor’s emergency powers

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Efforts to give state lawmakers more say into Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s emergency directives are in the works. The Governor’s emergency powers granted by the legislature in March are due to expire April 30. With that date coming up state lawmakers are looking to reassert the legislature into the process.

“I understand a year ago when we set up this unique situation there was a pandemic that was brand new; we were still trying to figure out how to deal with it. Government was required to act very quickly and nimbly and flexibly,” said NYS Senate Deputy Majority Leader Mike Gianaris.

But Gianaris said his conference has come up with a way to make sure the legislature has more of a say in policy while also having a structure where it can move quickly without being bogged down by the legislative committee process in cases of emergency.

“We are proposing that there be a committee of legislators who would be required to approve any directives before they take effect, which is a lot better than what we have now, which is that these directives happen absence some kind of override at a later date,” Gianaris said.

The current law says that, “The legislature may terminate by concurrent resolution executive orders… at any time.”

The Governor has said during a press briefing that the legislature can reverse any action that he takes. 

“Not even by a bill, just by passing 50% of the Assembly and the Senate. They have never reversed a single action,” the Governor said.

But, Gianaris says there have been a number of decisions made where the legislature has felt left out. 

“Nursing home decisions going back a year was certainly one of them, but the decisions around business closures, restrictions, the vaccine rollout all these things were happening without adequate consultation, without transparency, which is something we learned in the last couple weeks,” Gianaris said.

The Senate proposal would also need to be agreed on by the Assembly.

“I know that the Assembly has been briefed on what we’re suggesting, and I think they’re considering it and are going to be discussing it themselves when we’re back in session,” he said.  

Thursday, a spokesperson for Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie’s Office said members “will be conferencing what to do with the Governor’s powers in the very near future.”