ALBANY – Democrats in the state Assembly and Senate have finalized a deal to strip Gov. Andrew Cuomo of his coronavirus emergency powers.
The state legislature first delegated the emergency powers to the governor in March 2020 during the start of the pandemic. The authority gave Cuomo the ability to issue executive orders with the force of law on any issue relating to the COVID-19 pandemic, including altering specific regulations for businesses across the state, requiring mask-wearing and social distancing, and limiting or shutting down parts of the economy. Since then, Cuomo has used the authority to issue nearly 100 executive orders and has also issued more than 500 directives, modifications or suspensions of state regulations.
Throughout the time he’s held the powers, the Legislature still could have overturned individual orders by the governor with a majority vote, but that never occurred. But now that the governor is the focus of a federal criminal investigation in the state’s handling of nursing homes during the pandemic, along with the more recent allegations of sexual harassment, the democratic controlled Assembly and Senate are both ready to end Cuomo’s executive authority.
The agreement will prohibit the governor from unilaterally issuing new executive orders related to the pandemic without legislative review. But he will retain the ability to tweak or renew existing orders.
A vote on the measure is expected Friday.
Meanwhile, the number of lawmakers calling for Cuomo to resign immediately increased this week after a third woman came forward to allege the governor physically harassed her.
The intensifying calls for his resignation follow unsettling allegations from three women — former aides Lindsey Boylan and Charlotte Bennett, and Anna Ruch, who did not work for Cuomo but told the New York Times that Cuomo grabbed her and attempted to kiss her at a wedding in September 2019.
The politicians breaking ranks with Cuomo include a batch of progressive Democrats in the Legislature — as well as a Democratic member of Congress from Long Island, Congresswoman Kathleen Rice.
Cuomo has said he will defer further comment on the harassment allegations until after the investigation against him is completed.