NEW YORK — State legislators are on the verge of stripping away some of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s emergency pandemic powers.
The Democratic-led effort to clip the wings of their own governor comes amid his nursing home and sexual harassment scandals. But Republicans say the moves don’t go far enough, especially with new reporting in the New York Times that the Cuomo Administration did even more than first thought to cover up nursing homes deaths.
The Times story alleges that as the New York Department of Health was working on a report detailing 9,000 nursing home deaths by June, 2020 top Cuomo administration officials “rewrote the report,” and that “none had public health expertise.”
The “rewrite” happened just prior to Gov. Cuomo writing his book “Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic.”
It also came well before the department of justice sent a letter to New York asking for nursing home death information.
Cuomo has recently begun using the federal investigation as an excuse for why his administration was slow to put out nursing home death data.
“They covered it up,” said Republican Assemblywoman Mary Beth Walsh. “They went to great lengths to control the narrative.”
The state assembly debated the Democratic plan well into the evening to modify Cuomo’s emergency pandemic powers, while the senate passed the bill by mid-afternoon.
The new emergency powers law will extend a state of emergency issued at the start of the pandemic through April 30. However, Cuomo will not be able to issue new pandemic directives.
The governor can modify and extend existing directives by giving top lawmakers five days notice. Lawmakers can quash any change with a simple majority vote.
Republicans argue this still leaves Cuomo with enormous power, because he already has existing orders that touch most aspects of life he can modify. They also expect Cuomo’s Democratic allies in the statehouse to rubber stamp his moves.
Democrats like Brooklyn State Sen. Andrew Gounardes said a point person is still needed to manage the pandemic. He said the Governor now will have to justify any changes or extensions of his directives to his fellow lawmakers.
“This is a good procedural safeguard to make sure we continue to move in the right direction,” Sen. Gounardes said.
As of 5:30 p.m. the New York State Assembly had yet to pass the bill modifying the governor’s powers.