BUFFALO, N.Y. — The New York Senate on Friday passed a bill to limit the governor’s emergency powers at a time when he’s facing sexual harassment allegations and scrutiny over his administration’s reporting of COVID-19 deaths at nursing homes.
Last spring, lawmakers approved Gov. Andrew Cuomo's request for additional authority to pass sweeping mandates during the state of emergency.
Some Democrats have trumpeted the bill as a "repeal" of Cuomo’s emergency powers, but the legislation still allows the governor to extend or amend dozens of his ongoing COVID-19 mandates.
The governor has said he supports the bill.
Throughout this day lawmakers in Albany have been debating and deciding on what the Democratic leaders say is a way to rein in the governor's COVID-19 pandemic executive powers.
But of course the Republicans don't see it that way, and they've been using the unfolding scandals in the governor's office to make their case.
Earlier Friday, on the State Senate side of the Capitol, it was give and take, and back and forth. The Democrats who say the repeal measure, which they passed in that chamber with their majority votes, will actually restrain Gov. Andrew Cuomo from going forward with any new executive orders or directives as some like to put it.
But GOP lawmakers claim there must have been a backroom deal, as they phrase it. Indeed, a Republican senator asked the Senate deputy majority leader, Michael Gianaris of Queens, if the governor actually negotiated any part of the repeal bill affecting his powers withy Democratic legislature leaders.
The Governor himself said he did during a news conference earlier this week.
State Senator Andrew Lanza of State Island said, "So it's widely reported in the media that the governor has, in fact, said he will sign the bill and, in fact, he said he agreed to sign this bill. Why would the governor sign a bill to strip his own powers?"
Gianaris responded, "I heard the governor's press conference, and to be clear, the governor lied. There was no agreement between this house legislature and his office."
He said he was speculating that the governor did not want to be embarrassed and must have pretended to act like he was involved.
Gianaris, a Democratic senator, also said, "I haven't trusted this governor in a long time."
But their reasoning for the bill as it stands is that "the majority decided the powers were no longer necessary, It wasn't executed the way many of us would have liked and we're gonna repeal it. So the governor's ability to issue a new directive will be gone once this bill is enacted into law."
But while it's confusing, some of Cuomo's previous orders with COVID restrictions on residents and businesses will remain in effect because the Senate Democrats feel they still protect the public.
Over in the State Assembly, more comments about the governor and his powers granted by the legislature a year ago.
Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes, who is the Democratic Assembly Majority Leader from Buffalo, said, "This legislation would repeal the expanded em ergency powers that were granted."
She also went on to speak about Governor Cuomo.
"When I'm listening to my constituents, not just those in the 141st District in Buffalo but all around the country, they're still not thinking that this governor has done a bad job," she said.
"Now, people don't like what happened with the nursing homes. They do not like the numbers being fudged. But at the end of the day, they feel like the reason our numbers are low is because of the job that he did."
But some strong criticism from Republican Assemblyman Andy Goodell of Jamestown, who said, "We have seen results of a one-man rule dictating arbitrary requirements over and over again. His authority was set to expire at the end of April.
"What did the bill achieve? We eliminated the expiration date. That's what we did, and so the governor's one-man power continues until he decides it should end."