New York’s Legislature Rolls Back More Cuomo Covid Orders

New York’s legislature repealed several coronavirus-related executive orders, nearly two months after stripping Governor Andrew Cuomo of pandemic-era emergency powers.

The Senate and Assembly voted on Wednesday to reverse a Cuomo directive that required customers to order food with alcohol in bars and restaurants. Cuomo, in response, said he already planned to lift that rule.

The Legislature also passed resolutions to increase transparency for individuals working in Covid-19 operations, requiring those who volunteer for significant government work to follow public officer disclosure rules. In addition, lawmakers acted to relax outdated compliance rules for vaccine suppliers, eliminating penalties and prioritization rules that slow down the process and are no longer necessary, according to a news release from Senate Democrats.

“As more New Yorkers continue to get vaccinated, and our infection rates continue to decline, it is time to begin removing certain restrictions and regulations that are no longer necessary, so we can safely reopen and rebuild our state’s economy,” state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, a Democrat, said in a Tuesday news release announcing their plans for Wednesday.

Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi said the administration supports the action. Cuomo on Wednesday announced the ban on bar seating will be lifted on May 3, and plans to lift the midnight food and beverage service curfews on May 17 for outdoor dining and May 31 for indoor dining.

“With the numbers steadily decreasing, lifting this Covid-related restriction was something we were in the process of implementing in the coming days,” Azzopardi said in a statement. “We are pleased that the legislature agrees that we have made enough progress on Covid that New York is in a position to repeal this provision.”

Governor’s Power

This is the second action against Cuomo’s Covid-era policies that lawmakers have taken in recent months. The Democratic-led Legislature in early March revoked the temporary powers given to the third-term governor last year that allowed him to supersede the Legislature, as well as local laws, to issue hundreds of sweeping emergency directives on everything from closing businesses and schools to mandating the use of masks.

Repeal of the orders come as the scandal-plagued Democratic governor faces multiple investigations and allegations of sexual harassment and workplace impropriety. State Attorney General Letitia James is overseeing an investigation into several accusations of sexual misconduct.

The Assembly in March announced its own investigation into the allegations, an alleged cover-up of Covid-19 nursing-home deaths, structural problems on a state bridge and the use of state resources for Cuomo’s book on the pandemic. The inquiry is the first step toward impeachment proceedings.

Cuomo also is facing federal investigations into the state’s handling of nursing-home deaths. Critics say his administration forced the facilities to take back Covid-infected residents and undercounted their deaths to make the state look more successful. He has denied all of the allegations and refused to resign.

Senate Deputy Majority Leader Michael Gianaris, voting in favor of the resolutions on Wednesday, said they are “just the beginning.”

“I assure you the governor was not at all pleased that we are passing these repeals, multiple repeals today,” Gianaris said. “And in fact, I dare say the additional announcements he made this morning are a direct result of our taking this action today, because we made it clear that we are going to continue to review the existing directives and continent to assert ourselves as we see fit.”

State Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt applauded the majority for repealing some of Cuomo’s executive orders, saying Wednesday in a statement that it was “long overdue.”

Republican lawmakers have criticized the Democratic majority for not revoking all of Cuomo’s Covid-era directives. The legislation passed in March requires Cuomo to give them notice before extending or modifying any previous directives.

Ortt, a Republican, pushed for Senate leaders to go further and “fully repeal the governor’s emergency powers and restore local control to the officials who are best equipped to make decisions for the residents who elected them, and their local economies.”

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