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State GOP lawmakers push back harder on Cuomo's emergency pandemic powers

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Karen DeWitt / WBFO Albany Correspondent
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Senate Minority Leader Robert Ortt and other GOP senators at the State Capitol, Tuesday.

Republican members of the state Legislature want to rein in some of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s emergency powers that he has held through the COVID-19 pandemic, saying it’s time for more than just one branch of government to make all of the decisions.

Senate Minority Leader Robert Ortt of North Tonawanda said the 20 Republicans will introduce a resolution on the first day of session for the Legislature to take back some of the emergency authority that majority party Democrats granted the governor 10 months ago, when the pandemic began. Ortt said those powers were supposed to be temporary.

“It would be one thing if he was making split-second decisions about procurement (of medical supplies),” he said. “But I think we have moved well beyond the time when that resolution was necessary.”

But Ortt said Cuomo has been making big changes to the state’s laws through executive orders without consulting the Senate and the Assembly. The governor also has special powers in the state’s budget to make changes to spending, which has led to the temporary withholding of significant funding to schools and local governments. 

“We’re setting a very horrible precedent,” he said, “by really making the Legislature almost window dressing.”

Ortt said governing the state can no longer be a “one-man show.”

"If we don’t get the economy right, if we don’t do what’s right to get this economy, which is on life support, back to a healthy economy from New York City all the way to Buffalo, if we don’t do that then getting through the public health crisis will be only part of the equation because we are going to get back to less jobs, less economic opportunity," he said

Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi in a statement said Ortt and the other Republican lawmakers are “pandering.” He said the Legislature already has the power to rescind any of the governor’s emergency orders with a joint resolution.

WBFO's Mike Desmond contributed to this story.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. WBFO listeners are accustomed to hearing DeWitt’s insightful coverage throughout the day, including expanded reports on Morning Edition.
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