New York state lawmakers are moving to repeal Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s expanded executive powers related to the coronavirus pandemic, the top figures in the legislature announced Tuesday.
The bill, announced by Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, was introduced on Tuesday. Under the legislation, the governor will no longer be able to issue new executive directives. Any modifications or renewals of current pandemic-related executive directives will be subject to legislative review.
“I think everyone understands where we were back in March and where we are now. We certainly see the need for a quick response but also want to move toward a system of increased oversight and review. The public deserves to have checks and balances. Our proposal would create a system with increased input while at the same time ensuring New Yorkers continue to be protected,” Stewart-Cousins said in a statement.
“A year into the pandemic, and as New Yorkers receive the vaccine, the temporary emergency powers have served their purpose — it is time for them to be repealed,” Heastie added. “These temporary emergency powers were granted as New York was devastated by a virus we knew nothing about. Now it is time for our government to return to regular order.”
The bill is expected to pass quickly and go to the governor’s desk within a week and Democrats have a veto-proof majority in the legislature, should Cuomo try to nix it.
The move follows revelations that Cuomo’s administration underreported the number of Covid deaths among New York long-term care patients, according to a state attorney general report, and then delayed sharing potentially damaging information with state lawmakers.
Until late January, long-term care residents who died of Covid-19 were classified that way only if they passed away inside of a facility. Those who died after being transferred out or to a hospital were not included in that specific figure. The overall number of Covid deaths in New York remained the same, but the practice led to a dramatic misrepresentation of the actual toll in New York’s long-term care facilities.
Cuomo has denied any suggestion of wrongdoing and forcefully defended his top aides.
CNN has reached out to the governor’s office for comment.
Under current law passed last spring, the legislature gave Cuomo power to issue unilateral directives for the pandemic emergency. That law is scheduled to expire next month. The Senate and Assembly are expected to issue a joint statement on the bill later Tuesday afternoon.
In late January, New York state Attorney General Letitia James released a report that found the Cuomo administration had undercounted Covid-related long-term care deaths by as much as 50%. Two weeks later, the governor’s top aide in a call with Democratic state lawmakers admitted that Cuomo’s team put off an August request for data from long-term care facilities over fears the information would be “used against us” as part of an inquiry launched by then-President Donald Trump’s Justice Department.
The administration has defended that decision, arguing that with both the Justice Department and New York lawmakers asking questions, the federal inquiry became their priority.
Negotiations about how to execute the repeal and move forward have heated up this week as a political storm continues to swirl around Cuomo amid multiple sexual harassment allegations against him.
A third woman on Monday accused Cuomo of unwanted advances in 2019, according to the New York Times, adding to an escalating crisis facing the governor in the wake of two prior sexual harassment allegations made by former aides.
The latest accusation set off another torrent of criticism and new calls for Cuomo to resign, this time from New York Rep. Kathleen Rice, the first Democratic US House member to demand that the governor step down.
“The time has come,” Rice tweeted late Monday. “The Governor must resign.”
With her statement Monday, Rice joined a small group of other Democratic state lawmakers, including state Sens. Alessandra Biaggi and Gustavo Rivera, and Assemblywoman Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas, who have said Cuomo should leave office in the wake of mounting allegations.
Cuomo acknowledged in a statement over the weekend that “some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation.”
“To the extent anyone felt that way, I am truly sorry about that,” he said.
Cuomo has denied allegations of an unwanted kiss with a former female staffer and her allegation that he suggested they play strip poker on a flight.
This story has been updated with additional reporting.