Byrne Rejects Extending Governor’s Extraordinary Emergency Powers

Posted: March 6, 2021 in Ethics & Corruption

Statement on Legislature’s Extension of Governor’s Emergency Powers

The recent vote in the Senate and the Assembly regarding Governor Cuomo’s emergency powers (A5967) did NOT return checks and balances to our state government. Any person suggesting it did is either working to intentionally misinform the public or doesn’t fully understand what was voted on. A return to checks and balances would suggest the legislature introduce, debate, and pass laws instead of relying on the Governor to extend and/or modify all existing executive directives without legislative approval. Truly restoring checks and balances would also require that the legislature act and investigate the Governor’s mishandling and cover-up of COVID-19 fatalities in our nursing homes. No, this bill did not return checks and balances.

The bill that passed Friday evening allowed the Governor to extend and modify directives, only with “comment” by the legislature, but not its approval. The legislature already had the ability to comment and the authority to revoke any specific directive/executive order by a simple majority vote. This is something I have pointed out many times in the past, and it is not new. Yet, the reality is the majority conferences in the Senate and Assembly have not moved to revoke or modify a single directive – not once!

The new legislation also removed an important sunset provision. This change allows the Governor’s existing directives to continue well beyond April 30th. The Governor has already implemented nearly one hundred expansive executive orders or directives. When you consider how wide-ranging the Governor’s directives have been, permitting him to extend or modify them without legislative approval is not something to be encouraged by. It only further demonstrates that the legislature has yet again failed to assert itself as a co-equal branch of government.

During his many press briefings, Governor Cuomo frequently referred to his executive “directives” as “laws.” That is undeniably false. While many of his directives have the force of law, they are not laws. Laws are passed by the legislature and signed by the Governor. This is something the Governor, and perhaps even some members of the legislature, have failed to completely understand.

The Governor has already abused his emergency powers and has exercised them for far too long. From the very beginning, these powers were only supposed to be temporary. His emergency powers also never gave him the legal authority to undermine our Constitutional rights or liberties, but it did not prevent him from trying. As it stands, some of the Governor’s executive orders have already been deemed unconstitutional by the judiciary.

I have voted to repeal these powers multiple times and have introduced and cosponsored legislation that would provide greater oversight by the legislature during declared states of emergency. In fact, the Assembly Republican Conference offered up an amendment again on Friday to do just that, but it was soundly rejected by members of the Assembly Democratic Majority. I will continue to push for policies to bring back checks and balances and reassert the legislature as a fully functioning branch of government. The bill that passed Friday failed to do that.

The above information was previously distributed and made public for immediate release by the Office of Assemblyman Kevin Byrne