“At what point does an emergency become the norm? And at what point do emergency powers become just powers? That’s the question state lawmakers need to be asking themselves as the coronavirus crisis … evens out and society tries to return to some kind of normalcy.”
You know when we wrote that? In an editorial on May 20, 2020 – over a year ago.
“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?”
That’s from an editorial on July 1, 2020, about 11 months ago.
Here’s another one, written by former columnist Sara Foss in February:
“Rather than serve as a check on Cuomo’s newfound power, the Legislature quietly receded into the background, seemingly content to sit on the sidelines as the governor took center stage, issuing one COVID-19-related directive after another. It’s an arrangement that made sense in the tumultuous early days of the pandemic, when flexibility and quick decision-making were of utmost importance. But it’s not how American democracy is supposed to work.”
Now that the state’s vaccination rate is approaching 70 and hospitalization and death rates are among the lowest of the pandemic, some state legislators are now clamoring for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to end the covid state of emergency and for him to give up his extraordinary powers.
But far from being bold, those in the Legislature now raising their voices calling for the end of the emergency and the relaxation of precautions are being no more politically courageous than they were throughout the entire crisis, when they had a chance to serve as a check and balance on the state’s pandemic response and to manage the crisis more democratically, cooperatively and transparently.
The Legislature, controlled in both the Senate and Assembly by Democrats, granted Cuomo the emergency powers, and the same lawmakers always had the power to take that authority back.
They just didn’t. You know why?
So they could go back to their districts and run for re-election on the covid crisis, criticizing his bad decisions yet bearing no responsibility for them.
It wasn’t until March – when Cuomo’s political stature was weakened by coinciding scandals involving the nursing home death statistics and allegations of workplace harassment – that lawmakers finally moved to take back some of those powers. And even then, they left him still well in control.
So we agree with lawmakers who say it’s time for Cuomo to relinquish the king-like authority he’s exercised for the past 14 or 15 months.
With the crisis waning, at least for the time being, there’s not much left for Cuomo to manage now anyway.