Calls to limit Gov. Cuomo's executive power gain bipartisan support

Emily Burkhard & WNYT Staff
Updated: February 24, 2021 11:55 AM
Created: February 23, 2021 06:43 PM

It's been nearly a year since Gov. Cuomo was given the power to issue executive orders because of the pandemic. Now lawmakers on both sides of the aisle say they feel it has created an unequal distribution of power in what is supposed to be three equal branches of government.

Executive powers allow the governor through executive order to temporarily suspend any law, regulation, rule or local law that would impede the compliance of or prevent the necessary action to conduct pandemic response.

This has allowed Cuomo to issue executive orders on a range of issues, including closures of businesses, to altering how elections are conducted in order to limit the spread of the virus.

The orders must be renewed and updated every 30 days, but that does not require Legislature approval.

However, the Legislature could have overturned any of those executive orders at any time. They just haven't.

Since the nursing home scandal broke though, many are now calling for a change, including Republican state Sen. Jim Tedisco. He says the governor is trying to expand emergency powers further, not only related to COVID-19 health and safety, but now he's trying to relate it to an economic emergency. Tedisco says the governor wants any additional revenues generated this year to go into a fund, which he has sole discretion over.

Democratic Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara has been calling for changes since May. He was initially frustrated with the governor's control over the reopening process. He says what's happened with nursing homes has brought a lot of other legislators on board. Santabarbara would like to see the executive powers revoked.

He's also calling for long-term changes, so that if this happens again, executive power approval would need to be renewed by the state Legislature every 30 days. He says that's the way most other states do it, and that should be an indication that New York should follow suit.

Santabarbara also pointed out that although the bill to revoke executive powers is gaining support in both houses, the governor still needs to sign it.

State Sen. Dan Stec says he and other Republicans have tried to rescind the governor’s executive power 15 times already this year.

He says state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi’s bill has support from 13 of her Democratic colleagues. However, when it came time to vote, they blocked the amendment.

Democratic Assemblyman John McDonald says he supports restricting the governor’s executive powers. But he believes rescinding them altogether could do more harm than good.

McDonald also says some of the actions taken by the governor could’ve previously been passed by the Legislature, but they failed to do so.

NewsChannel 13 reached out to the governor's office for comment, but we haven't heard back.

Hear more of lawmakers' concerns over the executive powers and what they say needs to be done to correct the issues by watching the video of Emily Burkhard's story.


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