COVID-19: Has Gov. Cuomo Been Given Too Much Power?
Governor Andrew Cuomo has received high praise for his daily briefings in keeping New Yorkers abreast of the crisis surrounding COVID-19. However, some local figures believe that as he and his administration open and close business around the state on almost a daily basis, maybe he's been given too much power.
On Tuesday, bi-partisan legislation was introduced by Senator Joe Griffo (R) and Assemblywoman Maryanne Buttenschon, among others, that would amend executive law regarding the length of time of a state disaster emergency declaration, like the one that allowed him the power to issue stay at home orders and face mask requirements. The bill if passed, would require the governor to transmit a weekly report to the Legislature during an emergency declaration and requiring communication between the governor and the parties affected by a suspension of laws during a state disaster emergency.
"The bill is necessary to re-establish the Legislature as a co-equal branch of government, as it was intended to be in the State Constitution," Said Senator Joe Griffo. "Much of what the governor has issued through his executive orders during the COVID-19 pandemic were expressly allowed through the state constitution prior to the state’s current situation; however, some aspects of the shutdown and reopening have been used as an end run around the Legislature and the state constitution, necessitating that the extension of any such powers come with the ability of the Legislature to review and revise what the executive has done," he added.
A release put out by Griffo's office was specifically critical of the lack of communication in regards to restrictions and most recently, openings upstate, that have left "unnecessary confusion amongst employers, employees and residents." On Friday, Cuomo announced that state beaches would be open for Memorial Day weekend, catching county executives around the state off-guard. The legislation would require the governor to solicit input from local governments, school districts, individuals, businesses, associations and other parties affected by suspended laws and other executive actions, hopefully reducing or ending the confusion and inconsistencies surrounding executive orders.
"While I applaud the Governor for the work he has done to protect New Yorkers during this COVID-19 pandemic, it is time to address the need to review the Governor’s ability to use Executive Orders during this, and future, emergency and disaster declarations," said Assemblywoman Buttenschon.
Lawmakers are also calling on the Legislature to address any potential legislative actions taken by the executive and to review all that has been put forward and make determinations accordingly to pass legislation that would both remedy these issues, as well as better protect the rights of state residents and businesses by making the Legislature equal partners in the process of disaster emergency declarations.
“We are now looking at governor-ordered investigations of the state’s responses in these areas,” Griffo said. “The very issues that are requiring these investigations could have been eliminated early on if the governor was required to provide written reports instead of glossing over the problems during his daily briefings or stream of press releases following his executive orders," he said.