NY lawmakers vote to curb Cuomo’s COVID-19 executive powers; GOP says it doesn’t go far enough
The state Assembly joined the Senate Friday in voting to curb Gov. Andrew Cuomo's executive powers.
The move gives the Legislature a say in future pandemic policies.
The bill is a deal struck between Democratic leaders in both houses and without input from the governor. Once it's signed, Cuomo can no longer issue new executive orders without approval.
He can extend or modify the ones he's already issued if he gives five days' notice to the Legislature and local officials that would be impacted.
He must also respond publicly to any comments before directives can go through.
For months, New York Republicans have called for lawmakers to fully remove the governor's control, but that effort has been met with resistance from Democrats.
Both votes split down party lines with every Republican voting no, saying the bill doesn't do enough to fully strip the governor of control.
"What does passing this bill here today change for ordinary New Yorkers? What difference will they notice in their day-to-day lives? Nothing. The answer is nothing," says state Sen. Serino (R-41st District).
Brooklyn Democratic Assemblyman Charles Barron voted yes on the legislation, and says he wants the governor to be stripped of even more power.
"I think he should be impeached and brought up on charges because of the deaths in nursing homes," says Barron.
State Sen. Phil Boyle (R-Bay Shore) voted down the bill, saying it actually doesn't go far enough too. He says he and many other Republicans want to review each of the governor's 96 directives that he's issued over the last year one by one. Some he says he agrees with and should stay in place, but others he calls "completely nonsensical."
"Why can you be in a restaurant at 9:59 p.m. but not at 10:01 p.m.? Why can kids wrestle in school but not play instruments in the band unless they're 12 feet apart? says Boyle.
Boyle says Republicans offered an amendment 19 times to truly revoke those powers and were shot down by Democrats every time.
Democratic state Sen. Jim Gaughran voted in favor of the bill.
"I don't want to have a situation where we instantly pass a law, revoke everything and have a situation where nobody wears masks and we don't have social distancing and we don't have any of the protections that we still need," he says.
The bill is heading to Cuomo's desk where he is expected to sign off on it. Democrats in the Legislature have a veto-proof majority just in case the governor changes course last minute.
The votes come a day after the state Health Department confirmed reports that members of the governor’s COVID-19 task force altered a state Health Department report to omit the full number of nursing home patients killed by the coronavirus, but insisted the changes were made because of concerns about the data's accuracy.
The governor’s special counsel Beth Garvey disputed those claims in a statement.