New York state legislature passes bill to limit Gov. Cuomo's pandemic emergency powers

Andrew Cuomo will have to sign the bill to limit his own authority.

March 5, 2021, 7:38 PM

Both chambers of the New York state legislature have passed a bill to limit Gov. Andrew Cuomo's emergency powers granted in the pandemic.

The Friday vote fell along party lines in the Senate with 43 Democrats voting in favor against 20 Republican votes. The Assembly voted 107-43 several hours after the Senate’s approval to require more legislative oversight before directives are modified or extended.

Cuomo will have to sign off on it for it to take effect. If he doesn't, state Democrats have a veto-proof majority in the legislature to override his vote.

The bill, which was introduced Tuesday by Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, seeks to repeal Cuomo’s executive powers granted in the early days of the coronavirus crisis.

He was granted the emergency powers in March 2020, which permitted the governor to issue by executive order any directive necessary to respond to the pandemic, such as mandating mask-wearing and quarantines.

Under the new bill, Cuomo would require legislative review in order to introduce new executive orders concerning the state's virus response. If passed, he would also only be allowed to extend existing emergency directives related to the pandemic if they are "critical to public health."

Cuomo's emergency powers were set to expire April 30. The bill will allow standing directives related to the vaccination process and face coverings to remain in effect for an additional 30 days and they can be extended with Senate and Assembly review.

Republicans in the state Senate argued the bill doesn't go far enough and doesn't fully revoke those emergency powers.

PHOTO: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference, Wednesday, March 3, 2021, in Albany, N.Y.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference, Wednesday, March 3, 2021, in Albany, N.Y.
Office of the NY Governor via AP

"I think everyone understands where we were back in March and where we are now. The public deserves to have checks and balances," Stewart-Cousins said in a statement. She said the bill "would create a system with increased input while at the same time ensuring New Yorkers continue to be protected."

The move comes as Cuomo has been embroiled in two scandals.

He has been accused of inappropriate conduct by three women, including two who used to work with him.

The governor apologized for his actions in a press conference Wednesday.

"It was unintentional and I truly and deeply apologize for it. I feel awful about it and frankly I am embarrassed by it," he said. But he maintained, "I never touched anyone inappropriately."

His office is also under investigation for allegedly hiding the number of COVID-19 deaths in New York nursing homes.

A probe by the New York attorney general's office released in late January found the number of state nursing home resident deaths from the virus may have been undercounted by as much as 50%. The report said many of those patients died after being moved to the hospital and were not counted as nursing home fatalities.

The Cuomo administration denied altering nursing home death data in a new statement shared with ABC News Friday afternoon. His office said instead, "a decision was made" not to put in numbers determined to be questionable. The Cuomo administration is cooperating with the investigation.

ABC News' Aaron Katersky contributed to this report.

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