New York Legislature Strikes Deal to Limit Cuomo's Emergency Powers

The Assembly Speaker said the "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."

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On the one year anniversary of the first COVID case in New York, the state legislature has struck a deal to limit Governor Cuomo's emergency powers. The Times Union has a thorough report:

The agreement among Democrats on Tuesday will prohibit the governor from unilaterally issuing new executive orders related to the pandemic without legislative review. He will retain the ability to tweak or renew existing orders relating to slowing the spread of COVID-19, including the state's mask mandate or business restrictions. For instance, Cuomo could still order restaurant capacity limits to change. If the orders are not renewed, they would expire in 30 days.

A statute passed in 1979 empowered the governor to "temporarily suspend any statute, local law, ordinance, or orders, rules or regulations, or parts thereof" for a period of 30 days. But as the coronavirus pandemic took hold, the Legislature in early March gave Cuomo the ability to "issue any directive … necessary to cope with the disaster."

Cuomo has used the authority to issue nearly 100 executive orders since March 7, 2020, when his first pandemic-related order was issued. The governor also has issued more than 500 directives, modifications or suspensions of state regulations.

Cuomo has used the authority to issue nearly 100 executive orders since March 7, 2020, when his first pandemic-related order was issued. The governor also has issued more than 500 directives, modifications or suspensions of state regulations.

"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," said state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins. "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."

A vote on the measure is expected Friday, a Senate source said.

Assembly Speaker Carl E. Heastie said the "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."

The separation of powers should be a bipartisan issue. State legislatures should design methods to constrain emergency executive powers.