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The Assembly Minority Conference

Assembly, Senate Minority Conferences Urge Majority Colleagues to Follow Through on Ending Gov. Cuomo’s Emergency Powers

Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay and Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt were joined by their colleagues today at the State Capitol to reinforce the need for the Legislature to finally remove Gov. Cuomo’s expanded emergency powers. Having spent the last several months rejecting repeated legislative attempts by Minority Conference members to end the governor’s authorities, the Majority has now drafted a proposal to restore the Legislature’s status as a co-equal branch of government.

“It should not have taken a national scandal regarding nursing home fatalities and federal investigation of the governor’s office to reach this point,” said Assembly Minority Leader Barclay. “Rolling back Gov. Cuomo’s expanded authority is long overdue, but better late than never. The fact is that New York state is a representative democracy. Unilateral rule is not how our government is supposed to run. We have arrived at a point that the trust and credibility of the governor’s office has been severely compromised – possibly beyond the point of repair.”

“It has been abundantly clear that the governor abused this authority for months. My Senate Minority Conference colleagues and I put forth an amendment to rescind his emergency powers fourteen times since last May. Each and every one of those times, the Senate Majority kowtowed to Cuomo and rejected our pleas. While I’m glad my colleagues in the Majority appear to have finally woken up to our warnings over the past few weeks, they are far too late, and their reticence is inexcusable. I am beyond disappointed in their newest proposal to form a sham commission to pretend to get tough with the governor. This will not return balance to Albany. This is a fake effort to try to convince the people of New York that the Senate Majority is strong. They are, in fact, weak. And they do the bidding of the governor. To be clear, this proposed commission will serve as nothing more than a rubber stamp for an out-of-control governor and his most powerful allies in the Legislature. It does nothing to resolve this corrupt Executive branch. I urge my colleagues to reject this sham of a proposal and join us in supporting the bipartisan push to revoke his emergency powers and launch an immediate, independent investigation into the Administration’s handling of COVID in New York nursing homes. It is beyond time for New York state government to return to a system of accountability, checks and balances. Our constituents are counting on us,” said Leader Ortt.

The Senate Majority will reportedly propose a 10-person commission to review and evaluate the governor’s executive orders moving forward. As of Monday morning, no bill has been formally introduced.

“It’s clear that Gov. Cuomo has abused his emergency powers, thwarted legislative oversight, engaged in a cover-up and has extorted at least one member of the Legislature who has dared to speak out. But the Senate supermajority still remains afraid to take any meaningful action to immediately, fully and effectively restore the Legislature’s decision-making authority and responsibility. Now they want to hide behind yet another commission so they can go on avoiding responsibility and continue protecting the Cuomo administration,” said Sen. Tom O’Mara.

“Gov. Cuomo has grossly abused his emergency powers, resulting in the deaths of hundreds and hundreds of nursing home residents, the destruction of thousands of small businesses and horrific personal and financial damage to millions of New Yorkers. How long will Majority leaders ignore the nursing home tragedy and other mishandled aspects of our state’s pandemic response? For too long during our greatest hour of need, the Legislature has abdicated its responsibilities to the governor. We were elected to represent our constituents. We were not elected to delegate all our power to the governor to act as he pleases. We are calling on our colleagues on the other side of the aisle to join us to rescind the extraordinary emergency powers given to the governor last year and to put in place a system that restores checks and balances,” said Assemblyman Andy Goodell.

“For months my office has received countless phone calls, emails and social media messages demanding action to suspend the governor’s unchecked Executive authority. While the ability for quick decision making may have been necessary at the onset of COVID-19, there is no doubt that many New Yorkers, including myself, believe this unilateral decision making must come to an end. From a scathing report from the New York state Attorney General to a federal investigation and constant spin and deflection coming from within the governor’s administration, how could we, in good conscience, not intervene? My colleagues and I have been calling for the removal of these emergency powers for months, and now we call upon the Majorities in both houses to take the necessary actions to ensure that happens,” said Assemblywoman Mary Beth Walsh.

Last week, legislation (S.4888, Biaggi) was circulated that would repeal Executive Orders issued by the governor. A number of the governor’s Executive Orders are now being overturned in court, including restrictions on indoor dining and limits on religious services. The governor’s emergency powers are scheduled to expire on April 30, 2021.

On Monday, Jan. 28, Attorney General Letitia James issued a report revealing the Cuomo Administration underreported the total number of nursing home deaths by 50 percent. The administration refused to provide the data for months, despite repeated inquiries from the press, public and lawmakers. In a Thursday, Feb. 11 closed-door meeting between Gov. Cuomo’s top aides and six Majority Conference legislators, Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa admitted that the administration delayed the release of nursing home information to avoid a Department of Justice Inquiry. As a result of the leaked recording of that conversation, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District have launched a formal investigation.

Repeatedly, the Assembly Minority Conference has offered amendments to limit the governor’s emergency powers and increase transparency during the pandemic. In March 2020, while debating the $40 million emergency coronavirus appropriation the Conference offered a floor amendment which would have required the governor to report an accounting of all money distributed from the emergency appropriation to the Legislature every 30 days. In May 2020, the Conference offered A.10546 as an amendment to limit the governor’s expanded powers and increase local authority during future emergencies. In December 2020, the Conference offered A.10546 again as an amendment to the Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Act. Remarkably, each amendment was blocked by the Assembly Majority. In fact, as far back as last May, the Minority Conference has been calling for the Legislature to rescind the governor’s emergency powers, which were always intended to be temporary.