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Time to end governor's emergency COVID powers, Ortt says

Mike Desmond / WBFO News
State Sen. Rob Ortt (R-North Tonawanda) said Tuesday that hitting the 70% vaccination rate in New York is time to revoke the governor's remaining pandemic emergency powers.

The top Republican in the state legislature asks, if most of the COVID-19 restrictions are ending with New York's adult vaccination total hitting 70%, why won't the governor give up his emergency powers?

State Senate Republican Leader Robert Ortt leads the relatively small GOP opposition in the legislature. Democrats have absolute power, particularly the governor, with the emergency powers given to him early in the pandemic.

The North Tonawanda Republican's party has made 47 attempts to reverse the authority given to the governor, just as it has pushed hard to force the governor out of office for his handling of the virus, like deaths in nursing homes and allegations of sexual improprieties under investigation.

"There is a role for the legislature to play," he said. "I think people do rightfully worry about this governor giving back authority and today is a great example. If we're opening everything up, okay, well, then where's the end of the state of emergency? The power that we gave you, you should give that back, too, because you don't need it any more, right?"

Ortt said Democratic refusal to rescind the emergency power is a signal.

"It's important, because by not doing it, the governor still retains the emergency powers even though I think most people would say today, they certainly don't feel like we are living under a state of emergency any longer," Ortt said. "You have people going to baseball games. You have people going to hockey playoff games down on Long Island, New York Knicks games down in the city there. You have concerts being announced, concert schedules."

Ortt said the success of reaching 70% wasn't the work of those giving news briefings.

"I want to say to all the New Yorkers out there, the nurses, the doctors, the small business owners, we got here because of your work on the front lines, our essential workers in our grocery stores and our small businesses that persisted and fought through and through determination, as well as their employees, to get here today. This is their victory," Ortt said.

From the regular political point of view, Ortt was very critical during a news conference Tuesday about a state budget that rose and taxes that rose to pay for it.

He also cast doubt Assembly Democrats will go forward with an impeachment proceeding, though he argued there is already sufficient evidence to warrant such a move.
"I don't think they have the guts to do what the people of New York expect them to do," Ortt said.

WSKG's Tom Magnarelli contributed to this story.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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