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GOP Lawmakers Push Back On Cuomo's Pandemic Powers

New York Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt
Karen DeWitt

Republican members of the New York state legislature want to rein in some of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s emergency powers that the Democrat has held through the COVID-19 pandemic, saying it’s time for more than just one branch of government to make all of the decisions.Senate Minority Leader Robert Ortt says the 20 Republicans will introduce a resolution on the first day of session for the legislature to take back  some of the emergency authority that majority party Democrats granted the governor 10 months ago, when the pandemic began. Ortt says those powers were supposed to be temporary.

"It would be one thing if he was making split-second decisions about procurement, (of medical supplies),” said Ortt. “But I think we have moved well beyond the time when that resolution was necessary.”

But he says Cuomo has been making big changes to the state’s laws through executive orders without consulting the legislature. The governor also has special powers in the state’s budget to make changes to spending, which has led to the temporary withholding of significant funding to schools and local governments. 

“We’re setting a very horrible precedent,” Ortt said. “By really making the legislature almost window dressing.”

Ortt says governing the state can no longer be a “one-man show.”

Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi in a statement said Ortt and the other Republican lawmakers are “pandering” and says the legislature already has the power to rescind any of the governor’s emergency orders in a joint resolution.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of public radio stations in New York state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.
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