Lawmakers in the Democratic controlled houses of the state Legislature have reached an agreement to scale back Gov. Andrew Cuomo's powers granted to him last year to oversee the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, top lawmakers on Tuesday said.
“I think everyone understands where we were back in March and where we are now," said Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins.
"We certainly see the need for a quick response but also want to move toward a system of increased oversight, and review. 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."
The agreement comes as Cuomo faces an uncertain future in elected office amid a growing controversy surrounding the deaths of nursing home residents during the pandemic as well as multiple sexual harassment allegations by three women in less than a week.
The legislation would bar the governor from issuing new statewide directives, with the aim of restoring local control. Current directives the governor has previously issued could still be renewed and modified by Cuomo, including indoor dining capacity.
The existing powers were set to expire at the end of April.
Assemblyman John McDonald said a vote in his chamber could come as early as Friday for the measure.
Democrats hold supermajorities in the state Senate and Assembly, enabling them to override gubernatorial vetoes with party-line votes.
All told, the move amounts to a rebuke of a governor who has amassed a large degree of power while in an inherently powerful office.
“A year into the pandemic, and as New Yorkers receive the vaccine, the temporary emergency powers have served their purpose – it is time for them to be repealed,” Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said. “These temporary emergency powers were granted as New York was devastated by a virus we knew nothing about. Now it is time for our government to return to regular order.”