Capitol Notes

Assembly Health Chair supports string on Cuomo’s pandemic powers

Assembly Health Committee Chair Dick Gottfried supports a proposal being considered by his Democratic colleagues requiring Gov. Andrew Cuomo to be more responsive to the Legislature when responding to the pandemic. 

The proposal, as it existed last week when it was fleshed out for rank-and-file Democrats, includes a requirement that the Cuomo administration report certain decisions a week in advance to legislative committee chairs.

“I think the idea of having the governor come to the legislature or legislative committees and say, ‘This is what I’m planning on doing and here’s why,’ makes good sense,” Gottfried, a Manhattan Democrat, told The Capitol Pressroom on Friday.

The plan would allow the governor to respond immediately to emergencies, but in most cases he would be expected to brief state lawmakers first. Gottfried compared the arrangement to federal requirements that the president brief certain congressional committees about specific national defense decisions. The Cuomo administration has been largely unresponsive to inquires from state lawmakers about their pandemic decisions over the last year.

“Having more eyes looking at a situation is almost always a good idea, and knowing that if you do something you’re going to have to explain it to somebody, I think helps to produce better decisions,” Gottfried said. “And who knows, we may even have a good suggestion from time to time.”

Moving forward under the proposal from the Assembly Democrats, Cuomo would be required, 15 days after issuing an executive order, to release a report summarizing how the report impacted the economy and public health. The administration would also have to respond to written inquiries from state and local lawmakers on these topics.

The assemblyman stressed that he doesn’t want to reign in the broad, “sweeping emergency powers” that the executive branch had before last year to respond to a public health crisis.

As for the pandemic powers approved last year by the legislature, Gottfried said, “I was frightened of that language, I’m still frightened of it, I don’t think the governor has used those words. I think we should either let them sunset at the end of April or repeal them earlier if we can.”

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