EDITORIAL: Lawmakers need bigger role in covid crisis

Legislature needs to rein in some of Cuomo's powers, step in and help him manage crisis
Gov. Andrew Cuomo Wednesday
PHOTOGRAPHER:
Gov. Andrew Cuomo Wednesday

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

What are state legislators afraid of?

Are they afraid of power? Are they afraid to take initiative? Are they afraid of being held responsible? Are they afraid of the governor himself?

Or are they just too busy running their own re-election campaigns to step up and take a more active role in the state’s management of the covid crisis?

State legislators from both parties have largely been content to let Gov. Andrew Cuomo run the state’s response by himself.


Is that what you elected them for? To let someone else do all the work?

On Monday, the state’s Republican Party chairman, Nick Langworthy, called on his fellow legislators to rein in some of the governor’s powers and take a more active role in managing the state’s response, saying they’ve “abandoned their constitutional duty as a co-equal branch of government.”

He’s right.

The governor needed expansive emergency powers at the start of this crisis. But now is a perfect time for the Legislature to take a more active role.

For the moment, New York’s hospitalizations, deaths and new cases are under control, especially compared to states like Florida, Arizona and Texas.

But as we open up our economy, our numbers will go back up.

How will we handle the next wave of cases?

Since the crisis began in March, lawmakers have had plenty of time to evaluate what’s worked and what hasn’t.

They’ve sat back and seen what powers the governor needs to manage the emergency portion of the crisis and what portions of it could use more deliberation from the legislative body.

The virtually unlimited powers Cuomo might have needed during the first wave of the crisis might not be necessary during the second wave. 

Lawmakers need to be actively involved in ruling on when and how public schools and colleges reopen; how nursing homes and hospitals should manage an influx of new patients; which businesses should be allowed to remain open and which are making the problem worse; and how authoritative the state needs to be with regard to managing individual behavior such as wearing masks and gathering in public.

Even something as basic as forming a bipartisan, two-house legislative advisory committee to meet daily and publicly with the governor over the response would be a far better response than doing nothing at all.

New York has three co-equal branches of government — the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches.

The Executive and Judicial branches are doing their job.

Members of the Legislative branch need to start doing theirs.

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