Cuomo’s Emergency Powers At Risk

March 1, 2021

Given the significant controversies swirling around Governor Cuomo, some NYS Council members have begun to worry about what would happen if the Senate and the Assembly were to succeed in stripping the Governor of the ‘extraordinary powers’ they granted him back in March 2020 at the start of the COVID-19 crisis.  And what would this mean for the process we have all come to rely on in which the Governor uses Executive Orders, typically issued in 30-day intervals, to extend critical COVID 19 regulatory flexibilities and waivers that we are currently operating under?

The answer is still unclear, but it does appear as if lawmakers are gearing up for a fight with the Governor (and possibly one another) and will soon issue proposals to either eliminate or severely restrict the Governor’s authority.

Here’s an article discussing what lawmakers are considering as we enter into a critical phase of budget negotiations in which lawmakers are working on their one-house budget bills.  These documents, however aspirational, often articulate the positions and priorities of the various groups of lawmakers as they move into a more intense round of budget negotiations, and towards a two way deal (Assembly and Senate), and then a three-way agreement with the Executive.

One house bills should be out within the next 10-12 days, but first there needs to be an agreement by the leaders around a revenue target  – that is, how much tax revenue will be available (if any) beyond the amount necessary to fund everything in the state’s base budget, for lawmakers so they can ‘buy back’ cuts proposed in the executive budget, or add funds to existing proposals that they believe require additional resources.

How will the Legislature revoke Cuomo’s emergency powers?

There’s no consensus yet on how to curb Cuomo’s expanded powers, but those powers may not be gone for good.


The ongoing conflict over the handling of COVID-19 in nursing homes by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration has produced various plotlines to follow, including a concerted effort in the state Legislature to strip the governor of the broad expanded emergency powers they granted him last spring. 

Those expansion of those powers – which allow Cuomo to not only suspend and modify existing laws during the pandemic but also issue new orders – was granted in part to allow for a quicker response to the rapidly evolving pandemic last year. But now that Cuomo is under intense scrutiny, those powers are in jeopardy. While there seems to be some degree of consensus among Democratic – and Republican – lawmakers in the Legislature that Cuomo’s powers should be curbed, it’s not yet clear how that will happen. As of now, Cuomo’s emergency powers are set to expire on April 30.

One clear-cut option would be to rescind the expanded emergency powers completely. Sen. Alessandra Biaggi has introduced a bill that would do this, repealing the expanded emergency powers so that Cuomo would no longer be able to issue emergency directives. He would still, however, be able to temporarily suspend existing laws – something he was already able to do before the pandemic.

The Senate Majority Conference has proposed another option, which would create a 10-person bipartisan commission to subject Cuomo’s emergency executive actions to review. Any emergency directives from the governor would have to first be approved by this commission within 72 hours. The commission would also be able to disapprove any suspensions or changes to laws. If the commission didn’t act to disapprove a suspension or change to a law within 72 hours, the governor’s action would automatically go into effect. Legislation for this proposal had yet to be filed as of Friday morning.

“We certainly see the need for a quick response but also want to move toward a system of increased oversight, and review,” Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said in an emailed statement. “The public deserves to have checks and balances. Our proposal would create a system with increased input while at the same time ensuring New Yorkers continue to be protected.”

A spokesperson for Biaggi said that discussions with the rest of the Majority Conference have to take place, but Biaggi still supports a full repeal of the expanded emergency powers. Representatives for Cuomo did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the various proposals to curb his emergency powers.  

It’s possible, too, that between now and next week – when lawmakers aim to move on this front – another option will be proposed. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie has yet to come down one way or the other on how to curb Cuomo’s emergency powers. Some in his conference, including Assembly Member Robert Carroll, have dismissed the idea of a commission, favoring instead a full repeal of Cuomo’s expanded emergency powers. A spokesperson for Heastie said that the Assembly will conference on Monday, at which point more details on the Legislature’s path to curbing Cuomo’s powers will hopefully emerge.