In March 2020, the Legislature passed Chapter 23 of the Laws of 2020, a law expanding the Governor’s existing authority to suspend statutes, rules, and ordinances during disasters. Chapter 23 broadened the definition of “disaster” to include “impending or urgent” threats and “disease outbreaks,” not just epidemics. It also empowered the Governor to issue directives and executive orders addressing disasters. Portions of the law are scheduled to expire on April 30, 2021. Since the passage of this law, Gov. Cuomo has issued dozens of executive orders regulating many areas of New Yorkers’ lives in an effort to contain the spread of COVID-19.
Bill S.5357-Stewart-Cousins/A.5967-Heastie would revoke the Governor’s authority to issue emergency directives and orders regarding the COVID-19 disaster. However, it would leave all of the Governor’s existing COVID-19 directives and orders in place for 30 days. It would also empower the Governor to modify or extend those existing orders in 30-day increments, so long as he provides legislative leaders and applicable legislative committee chairs with five days’ notice and an explanation for each modification or extension. Under this bill, the Legislature would continue to have the authority to terminate emergency directives and orders by passing concurrent resolutions. The bill would remove the April 30, 2021 end date on the Governor’s emergency powers. Furthermore, the bill would require the Cuomo administration to create and update a searchable database of the various directives, orders, and suspensions of existing laws that he has issued during the pandemic.
Bill S.5357-Stewart-Cousins/A.5967-Heastie is unacceptable. Rather than allowing the Governor to continue extending his COVID-19 emergency directives and orders in 30-day increments, the Legislature ought to re-assert its own authority and truly curtail the Governor’s unilateral governance of the State of New York. It is not enough to simply stop the Governor from issuing new emergency directives and orders; the Legislature should also rescind the directives and orders he has already issued. Several other pending bills would do a better job of pulling back the Governor’s excessive pandemic authority than this one does. The New York Young Republican Club calls upon the Legislature to reject this measure.