Ortt, Republicans in Legislature push to end governor’s emergency powers

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 22 February 2021 at 2:16 pm

ALBANY – The Republican conference in the State Legislature held a news conference this afternoon, saying they will try again to end the governor’s emergency powers that were approved nearly a year ago at the start of the Covid-19 public health crisis.

Rob Ortt

Rob Ortt, leader of the Senate Republicans, said the time has long passed for the Legislature to be a co-equal branch in governing the state.

Cuomo has issued numerous executive orders that have shut down businesses, allowed some to operate at reduced capacity while placing other restrictions on churches, schools and public venues as part of his public health directives.

Ortt and Will Barclay, the Assembly Republican leader, intend to force a vote today to rescind Cuomo’s powers and “re-establish the Legislature as a co-equal branch of government.”

Ortt said Cuomo has shown “gross disrespect when he lies and when he withholds information.”

Cuomo faces increasing scrutiny about the nursing home deaths due to Covid and whether the state purposely distorted the number of nursing home deaths. Ortt said the increasing national media attention also has highlighted the governor’s “bullying” approach towards the Legislature.

Barclay, speaking at the news conference in Albany which was shown on Facebook Live, said the Legislature has shown it can meet and get together quickly if there are any emergency issues. That was the reason the Legislature agreed to giving Cuomo the emergency powers, so the state could quickly be responsive in the public health crisis.

But Barclay said some of the decisions haven’t been in the public’s interest and have resulted in a “tragedy” of deaths. He cited 46,000 Covid-related deaths in the state. Only California has more at 49,000, but that state has nearly double New York’s population.

Barclay questioned whether the governor used sound science in imposing restrictions on businesses, churches and graduations. Just last week Cuomo said indoor dining in New York City would be increased from 25 to 35 percent of a restaurant’s capacity. Barclay said Cuomo didn’t offer any compelling science for the 35 percent threshold.

“This is the time, we don’t need to wait any longer to take away the governor’s executive powers,” Barclay said

State Senator Tom O’Mara of the Southern Tier faulted Cuomo for “thwarting legislative oversight” and stonewalling freedom of information requests from good government groups.

“He hasn’t cooperating with the Legislature is any way, shape or form for 11 months now,” O’Mara said.

Assemblyman Andrew Goodell of Chautauqua County said the governor has been running the state for almost a year without any checks and balances from the Legislature.

“We have operated with one person dictating every action of our response to Covid,” Goodell said. “Our Constitution doesn’t envision a monarch or a dictator.”