Debate over Governor Cuomo’s emergency powers continues

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ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — At the start of the coronavirus pandemic in March, the New York State Legislature approved legislation that granted Governor Andrew Cuomo “emergency powers.” But as months have gone by, there’s been a debate over whether that authority should be limited.

Earlier this week, Governor Cuomo announced that he would withhold funding to schools and localities that don’t enforce the state’s COVID-19 rules. It’s the latest move that has some urging the legislature to limit his emergency powers.

“We should go back on our own and rescind these powers or put a check on the Governor’s ability to hurt local governments and taxpayers by withholding this funding if he goes forward and does that,” said Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt. 

The bill granting the Governor emergency powers had overwhelming support at the time of passage. 

“At that time, you’ve got to remember that no one knew what this was going to be. We didn’t know if this was going to be the next bubonic plague; we didn’t know if this was going to be sort of a passing thing. No one knew and I think there was a general sense of ‘look we’ll give the Governor these broad powers to make quick decisions in the middle of a public health emergency,’ ” Ortt said.

While some say the power has been overreaching, Albany County Executive Dan McCoy said, “The million-dollar question we always get… ‘There’s lawmakers in the Senate and Assembly, should we take the power away from the Governor?’ I’ll say this, where were you for four months when this started? If you wanted to take that power away, you should have been doing your job. They haven’t showed up.”

In a statement, Senate Majority spokesperson Mike Murphy said:

“… The Legislature has taken decisive action to help millions of struggling New Yorkers trying to endure this crisis. We passed bills to help families trying to make ends meet, stay in their homes, and have some stability during this extraordinary time, while also passing legislation to protect our democracy and empower New York voters.” 

Under the law, the emergency powers that the legislature approved for the Governor stay in effect until April 2021.

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