Following State Senator Liz Krueger, Allesandra Biaggi becomes the second Democratic State Senator to demand that Governor Andrew Cuomo’s emergency powers to manage the COVID-19 pandemic be eliminated.
“Just to put this into perspective as to why we need to limit and end the governor’s outsize power, his broad emergency power, is because in just the first six months of the governor’s expanded emergency powers, he used that power to issue 65 executive orders, and to suspend more than 250 laws,” Biaggi said.
Last March, the legislature agreed to hand the governor emergency powers to fight COVID-19 and manage the pandemic. But last week, a bombshell report from State Attorney General Letitia James accused the Cuomo administration of underreporting COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes by up to 50%.
Republicans have been saying there was an undercount for months. And after the James report came out, Cuomo released statistics on nursing home deaths which showed they numbered close to 13,000, much higher than previously reported.
Republicans were joined at a Zoom press conference Wednesday by Janice Dean, a Fox News meteorologist who lost both her in-laws to COVID-19 last year. Both were nursing home residents. And now Dean has emerged as a frequent Cuomo critic.
“We lost people on both sides of the aisle as a result of the state’s tragic policy,” Dean said. “And now we need people on both sides of the aisle to take an active role in getting justice.”
Republicans are calling for a joint legislative investigation into nursing home deaths, and demanding more information be made available.
“It is definitely necessary for the legislature to have an additional set of hearings in regard to the nursing home numbers. Why? Because when we had our hearings in the summer we were promised data and information tagging we have not yet received. It’s been many months,” Biaggi said.
Rich Azzopardi, a senior adviser to Governor Cuomo says, “The senator may not know this, but she has an easily available option. The governor's executive power is very limited. Any executive order by the governor can be easily over ridden by a simple majority of the legislature. That is their prerogative. Any executive order is immediately null and void with a simple majority vote."
Republicans have tried to revoke Cuomo’s emergency powers eleven times with what are known as hostile amendments, but they were rebuffed by Democrats. The last time Assembly Republicans tried in December, they were joined by seven Democrats. And that was before the James report.
Separately on Thursday, a judge ruled that the Cuomo administration must make additional documents available regarding nursing homes.
Sources say Assembly Democrats have discussed rescinding Cuomo’s emergency powers, and have agreed to have a separate, private conference to discuss it. So far, the only thing Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie has said about the James report is that he is closely reviewing it.