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Some NY lawmakers call for stripping Cuomo of emergency powers

Published: Feb. 18, 2021 at 6:11 PM EST
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PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. (WCAX) - New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is under fire as a bipartisan effort to strip him of his emergency powers picks up steam. It’s the result of a report that shows last spring’s nursing home deaths were really double what the Cuomo administration reported.

So what would it mean to strip Cuomo of his emergency powers? The powers were given to the governor to make policy quickly during the pandemic. It takes a while to pass a law and with lawmakers not in session for part of the year, they felt giving the governor emergency power for rapid policy was the best option. Now, they say it’s time to take that power back.

“This is the 11th time that my colleagues on my side of the aisle have made this appeal. It’s the ninth time this year since I’ve been a member of the Senate,” said Sen. Dan Stec, R-Queensbury.

Feb. 3 on the Senate floor, Stec called for the governor’s emergency powers to be revoked.

Now, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, including Democratic Assemblyman Billy Jones, agree it’s time to repeal the powers set to expire in April.

“The governor works through executive orders or orders, the Legislature works through laws,” Political Scientist Harvey Schantz said.

Executive orders like mask mandates and moving the state’s presidential primary.

“The governor also might have information that the state Legislature doesn’t have,” Schantz noted.

Last March, Cuomo issued an executive order forcing nursing homes to take back COVID-positive patients to free up hospital beds.

“The Cuomo administration knew they had made a mistake by sending COVID patients into nursing homes, so they reversed themselves. But the damage had already been done and they had the record of it,” Schantz said.

A recent report shows 15,000 people living in nursing homes died in that time period rather than the 8,500 deaths the state reported. The administration reported deaths where they happened. So, if you died in a hospital, that was a hospital death even if the death stemmed from an outbreak at a nursing home.

Lawmakers and the Trump administration asked for the nursing home numbers for months.

“Cuomo didn’t want to give the information to the state Legislature because it was embarrassing, but he also thought it would be going to Washington then, as well, so he sat on it,” Schantz said.

In a press conference Monday, Cuomo admitted it was a mistake to not provide nursing home death information in a timely manner.

If his emergency powers are stripped, the Legislature would need to be able to act even when it’s not in session, which can’t happen right now.

“Ensuring the governor can respond to true emergencies, yet at the same time, limit what the governor can do outside of an utter emergency situation,” Schantz said.

Many state and federal lawmakers are also calling for Cuomo’s resignation or for his impeachment.

Schantz says only one New York governor has ever been impeached and that was more than 100 years ago.

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