New York State legislature on Friday decided to strip Governor Andrew Cuomo of the temporary emergency powers he was granted last year to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Senate approved the bill by 43 to 20 votes, which would revoke Cuomo’s power to issue new orders related to coronavirus, while the ongoing orders could remain in effect, albeit with great legal scrutiny.
The law is now under scrutiny by the assembly that is expected to pass it.
The effort came as the Democratic governor dealt with two major scandals: a cover-up of Covid nursing home death dates by Cuomo’s government and allegations by three women that he sexually molested them.
NBC New York reported earlier this week that the Senate and Assembly Democratic leaders had reached an agreement to revoke Cuomo’s emergency powers that would allow issues like Covid lockdowns to be determined by local authorities.
Cuomo has suggested that he be ready to sign the bill.
“I think everyone understands where we were in March and where we are now. We certainly see the need to respond quickly, but we also want to move to a system of enhanced surveillance and verification. The public deserves checks and balances . ” said Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Westchester County.
“This legislation creates a system of increased input while ensuring that New Yorkers continue to be protected,” said Stewart-Cousins.
Cuomo has issued nearly 100 orders related to the coronavirus pandemic, according to a debate in the Senate on Friday morning.
Senator Andrew Lanza, R-Staten Island, complained Friday that the bill would not prevent Cuomo from acting unilaterally and continuing the guidelines he issued under the Emergency Authority Authorization.
Lanza, who said he would vote against the bill because of this, has blown the “one man rule” and the ramifications of “when you have a man, you have absolute power over your life” since last March.
“If I had told someone two years ago that we’d stand by and ask a governor to tell the athletes they can’t play,” or tell the students they can’t play, “people would say you they’re crazy, by no means, no, how does that happen? “said Lanza.
The move to remove Cuomo’s powers, however, underscores the growing gap between the governor and his own party’s lawmakers.
For years, Cuomo has been able to enforce his political will with less effective setbacks from the Senate and Assembly than his predecessors.
On Thursday evening, the New York Times reported that Cuomo’s top aides rewrote a state Department of Health report last June to highlight the fact that more than 9,000 nursing home residents had died from the coronavirus as of that month. The move came when Cuomo started writing a book about what his widely acclaimed handling of the pandemic was at the time.
The Times report contradicts recent allegations by Cuomo’s aides that the death dates were suppressed to prevent the Justice Department, at the time under the control of Attorney General William Barr, a loyal ally of, from being used as a political weapon then President Donald Trump was used. However, the Justice Department’s request for the data came months after Cuomo aides removed it.
The suppression of data from nursing homes has puzzled many as it did not alter the official death certificate for Covid in New York in any way. Instead, deaths related to nursing homes were under counted, while those deaths were reported elsewhere.
“They not only withheld the information, but also changed it,” said Lanza on Friday.
“A lot of bad things happen when you give power to a man,” he said.
The governor refused to resign earlier this week on allegations by two former aides and a woman who worked in the Obama White House that he sexually molested her.
But the embattled Democrat said in his first public comments on the women’s allegations: “I now understand that I acted in a way that made people feel uncomfortable. It was unintentional.”
Both the suppression of data from nursing homes and the allegations made by women are being investigated.
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