Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has accumulated an outsized level of power that is no longer appropriate or necessary. In early March 2020, the Legislature voted to expand the Governor's powers under an emergency declaration right before a state of emergency was first declared. The COVID-19 health and economic crises have necessitated certain expedited directives by the Executive, but these powers have been overused and now threaten our co-equal branches of government
In the first 6 months of the Governor’s expanded powers, he issued 65 executive orders and suspended more than 250 laws. The number and nature of these directives demonstrate an overreach of power, and the lack of oversight of the Governor threatens the health of our representative democracy. There are three branches of government for a reason. The duty of law-making should belong to the Legislative branch as it continues to serve as the strongest connection to New Yorkers and our local communities. Yet many of the Governor’s directives have disregarded the legislative process all together and undermined the power of the Legislature – and the voices of the people.
The Governor’s handling of nursing homes throughout the pandemic illustrates his dangerous overreach. In March 2020, the Executive issued guidance requiring nursing homes to re-admit COVID-19 positive patients. The Governor’s office further failed to provide nursing homes with the support they needed in the early days of the pandemic. According to a report issued by the Attorney General, this guidance may have put nursing home residents in harm's way. During the summer, the Legislature demanded that the Health Commissioner provide us with full and accurate data on COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes. But only after Attorney General Letitia James’ investigation reported that the Department of Health had undercounted as much as 50% of nursing home deaths, did the Governor’s office provide those details to the Legislature and the public.
The Administration's decision to withhold the accurate number of people who died of COVID-19 in nursing homes demonstrates their lack of transparency and unwillingness to hold themselves accountable. If this is how the Governor chooses to use his expanded powers, it is no longer in the public’s best interest to allow his emergency powers to remain unchecked.
This week I introduced legislation (S4888) to revoke Governor Cuomo’s expanded emergency powers. With the growing support to roll back the Governor’s expanded emergency powers, I am hopeful we will restore the Legislature's role in our democracy and deliver New Yorkers the relief they so desperately need.
State Senator Alessandra Biaggi