The state senator joins the call to end the governor's expanded authority used to battle COVID-19

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With the coronavirus pandemic easing across New York state, some say Gov. Andrew Cuomo should be stripped of the emergency powers he was granted to deal with the crisis.

On Tuesday, state Sen. Pam Pam Helming, R-Canandaigua, spoke on the Senate floor criticizing the Democratic majority for rejecting an amendment that would rescind those powers.

“We can all agree that in times of crisis, decisions must often be made quickly. However, they should not be made in a way that undermines the very foundation of our democracy and our system of checks and balances,” said Helming. “No governor, regardless of political party, should have the ability to make hundreds of unilateral changes to state laws without input from the state Legislature. We have elected a state Legislature for a reason, and it’s unconscionable that elected officials would choose to give up their constitutional responsibility and simply hand it over to the governor.”

The Legislature granted Cuomo powers in early March to temporarily suspend or create laws to fight the pandemic. The governor has issued more than 40 executive orders and changed over 250 laws. Decisions involved everything from nursing homes' handling of COVID-19, to school and business closings and requiring everyone wear a mask in public.

“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the governor has unilaterally enacted or changed hundreds of laws. New Yorkers from across the entire state and specifically, the Wayne-Finger Lakes Region, have expressed their concern with this process,” stated Helming. “They want to know their elected officials have a say and a vote in the decisions being made. Decisions that reflect their priorities, needs and circumstances, and impact themselves and their family members in the most profound way.” 

Earlier this summer, fellow Finger Lakes area lawmaker Assemblyman Brian Manktelow, R-Lyons, blasted the Assembly majority for rejecting legislation that would limit Cuomo’s emergency powers.

To that end, a number of organizations have signed a letter calling for lawmakers to “review and place new limits on the emergency powers granted to the governor earlier this year.” The letter was signed by executive directors of Common Cause NY; League of Women Voters of New York State; New York Public Interest Research Group; and Reinvent Albany.

Meanwhile, many have praised Cuomo for his handling of the pandemic. States where governors have downplayed the outbreak, such as Texas and Florida, are seeing a surge in cases while New York continues to improve.

"Every day, we see the hard work of New Yorkers reflected in our numbers, which continue to steadily decline even as every part of the state has entered Phase Four of our phased, data-driven reopening," Cuomo stated Wednesday. "New Yorkers accomplished that — 19 million people working together because they cared about each other. If we are not careful, we could end up back right where we started, and all that hard work will have been for nothing. We cannot go back to the hell we experienced three months ago, so we must protect the progress we've made and continue to be New York Tough."