A law granting Gov. Andrew Cuomo oversight of the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic is set to expire at the end of April. But Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay does not think the legislature should wait that long.
Barclay on Sunday called on the legislature to cancel its mid-winter break and hold a special session to rescind Cuomo's enhanced authority to oversee and respond to the crisis.
"There is vocal, bipartisan support in both houses to finally end Gov. Cuomo’s emergency powers and restore the Legislature to a co-equal branch of government," Barclay said in a statement.
"Members of the Assembly and Senate Republican conferences have been calling for this for months. It should not have taken a national scandal to compel Democrats to take this overdue step, but it has never been more obvious that the time has arrived."
There have been calls in the past to rescind Cuomo's authority, and the governor's office has pointed to provisions in the law that allow the legislature to override any order he issues.
But the latest push comes amid the growing controversy surrounding the disclosure of the deaths of nursing home and long-term care facility residents during the pandemic.
Revelations over the last several weeks have included an attorney general report finding an under-count of residents, disclosures that more than 15,000 residents have died since March, and the administration withheld information from state lawmakers so officials could respond to a Department of Justice inquiry.
Cuomo administration officials in September asked the legislature for a "pause" to respond to the DOJ request.
The Cuomo administration has maintained the delayed response was due to the DOJ inquiry, as well as the effort to respond to the end-of-year surge in COVID cases and vaccine distribution. The Department of Health last week released responses to state lawmakers based on questions first asked in August.
"After everything we’ve witnessed in a nursing home crisis that claimed the lives of more than 15,000 senior citizens, the reasons to call a special legislative session are clear," Barclay said. "The legislature has a responsibility to the thousands of families who weren’t afforded a week off from the loss and suffering they experienced. Inaction this week would be inexcusable.”