ALBANY, N.Y. (NewsNation Now) — New York State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie announced Tuesday that they plan to introduce legislation to strip emergency powers from Governor Andrew Cuomo. These powers were granted at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.
Cuomo has come under fire in recent weeks over his office’s role in reporting the official count of coronavirus fatalities among patients of nursing and extended-care facilities, as well as for allegations of sexual harassment leveled against him.
Lawmakers granted the governor temporary emergency powers to make sure a speedy and safe response to the pandemic. This gave the governor broader powers, like the ability to issue executive orders, and was set to expire on April 30.
NewsNation affiliate WTEN reports the legislation will allow current public health directives to stay in place for 30 days following the passing of the legislation. These directives deal with controlling the spread of COVID-19, vaccination efforts and wearing a face covering. The directives can still be extended or modified but certain steps need to take place in order to do so.
The governor will have to notify relevant Senate and Assembly committee chairs as well as the temporary president of the Senate and the speaker of the Assembly with the need for the extension or modification, and the threat to public health and safety, and provide an opportunity to comment. Orders that do not pertain to the COVID-19 pandemic cannot be adjusted.
If a local government is directly impacted by an executive order, the leadership there will have an opportunity to comment on any extension or modification.
Fifteen days after the legislation goes into effect, all current suspensions and directives will be posted on the website of the governor in a searchable format, and include details on such suspensions and directives, including the public health and safety reasons any directives were extended or modified.
Cuomo, one of the nation’s best-known Democratic politicians, has been accused by two former aides of engaging in a series of unwanted, sexually suggestive comments, and in one case an unsolicited kiss.
On Sunday, he apologized if any of his remarks or behavior were misinterpreted as flirtatious and said he never tried to make anyone feel uncomfortable. He said he never physically touched anyone.
The often outspoken governor has stayed mostly out of the public eye since the sexual harassment scandal started gaining traction last week. Cuomo rose to national prominence for his daily televised briefings last spring, when New York was the epicenter of the COVID-19 epidemic in the United States.
In January, the attorney general’s office issued a report that cast doubt on the Cuomo administration’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, saying the state health department significantly undercounted the death toll in nursing homes and implemented policies that may have contributed to it.
Elkan Abramowitz, a former federal prosecutor now working in private practice in New York City, was hired to represent Cuomo’s “executive chamber” – consisting of the governor and his immediate staff – in the U.S. Justice Department inquiry into the COVID-19 nursing home deaths, senior advisor Rich Azzopardi told Reuters in a text message.
NewsNation affiliate WTEN and Reuters contributed to this report.