Breaking news this afternoon in New York is that the New York State Legislature has reached an agreement on legislation that strips Gov. Andrew Cuomo of emergency authority given to him last year to manage public health and safety considerations arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The practical import of this decision is that all future decisions on matters involving policies and procedures for dealing with the pandemic will resort to the local level, with Gov. Cuomo no longer authorized to issue state-wide orders.
Assemblymember Carrie Woerner tweeted the outlines of the widely reported deal Tuesday afternoon, saying it would:
- “repeal the extraordinary powers granted to the Governor last year”
- “provide for an orderly transition through the end of the disaster period”
- “Limit any further modifications to directives to that which is necessary to reduce the spread or increase vaccinations”
- “Restore the right of counties and municipalities to issue executive orders without seeking state approval”
- “Require the Governor to provide online reporting on all executive orders, providing transparency for all”
Woerner said she understood a bill would be passed as early as this Friday.
This is a response to the Governor’s mishandling of the issue of his having ordered the transfer of nursing home patients from hospitals back to their homes even when it was known that the patients tested positive for COVID. The Governor’s Office later covered up the totality of needless deaths likely caused by that order when it deliberately failed to include among “nursing home deaths” those nursing home patients who died while in the hospital being treated for the COVID infection they suffered in their nursing home due to the Governor’s order.
Two weeks ago a senior member of the Governor’s staff, Melissa De Rosa, admitted that the Governor’s Office had deliberately provided inaccurate data to the Legislature on the subject because it was at that time trying to decide how it would respond to a request for the same data from the United States Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, which the Governor’s Office believed was politically motivated.
It wasn’t until after De Rosa’s confession that the Governor’s Office released accurate numbers on nursing home deaths to the Legislature and the media showing that the number of deaths was almost twice as high as the Administration had been publicly reported.
In addition to this issue, there is the perception in New York — spreading across the country — that the widespread roll-out of a vaccine is causing the threat of the pandemic to recede.
For the last year, executive orders have let Cuomo govern the state with little resistance, whether it was closing schools, mandating people work from home, restricting transit, or stopping (and then restarting, and stopping again, and then restarting again) indoor dining.
But as his problems deepened, so did calls for the legislature to regain a measure of control by stripping the emergency authority.
“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,” Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said. “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 combination of this step — which also makes any emergency order issued by the Governor subject to legislative override — adds to Cuomo’s woes involving allegations of sexual harassment and bullying that have broken wide open over the past week. He is now subject to an investigation that will be conducted by an outside law firm appointed by the Attorney General.
The combined effect of these scandals will likely lead to a conclusion by those close to Cuomo that he has lost his ability to lead the state. The sexual harassment allegations — which only seem to get worse every 48 hours — will likely lead to a loss of support among a key Democrat party constituency — college-educated women. The White House and several female federal officeholders have joined in the call for an independent investigation into his conduct, including Nancy Pelosi, Kristen Gillibrand, and AOC.
I think we should start a contest in the comments on the date and time at which Cuomo announces his resignation from office.