EDITORIAL: Mask mandate mess another example of New York dysfunction

Gov. Kathy Hochul updates the state on the COVID situation Monday, Jan. 3, 2022.

Gov. Kathy Hochul updates the state on the COVID situation Monday, Jan. 3, 2022.

History has given us plenty of examples of why New York’s government has often been deemed “dysfunctional.”

There’s the “three-men in a room” style of budget making, in which the governor and the leaders of the Senate and Assembly worked out a budget in secret (and often many days overdue) without involving rank-and-file legislators in the decisions.

There’s the 27,000 layers of government (only a slight exaggeration) that make New York government inefficient and costly.

More recently, there’s been the strange Hunger Games competition for regional economic aid.

All of those examples help define a dysfunctional government.

Well, put another shrimp on the barbie and behold the latest spectacle — this one involving the governor’s mask mandate.

This particular example of dysfunction is rare in that it involves not one, not two, but all three branches of government.

Gov. Kathy Hochul and her state Health Department last year, in the wake of a spike in covid cases related to the new omicron variant, imposed a mask mandate on businesses and schools, using their authority to manage a health emergency as justification.

Our allegedly full-time Legislature (at least they’re paid that way) sat on the sidelines as cases rose while the governor took all the heat for the unpopular decision.

This same Legislature that gave former Gov. Andrew Cuomo virtually unlimited powers over the pandemic for an extended period of time wouldn’t give his successor any extraordinary powers, nor would it reconvene to pass authorization for the mask mandate. Dysfunction by inaction.

Fast forward to Monday, when a state Supreme Court justice on Long Island ruled that the governor didn’t have the constitutional authority to impose the mandate because the mandate needed to come from the Legislature.

On Tuesday, the state’s Appellate Division took up the case, and late in the day imposed a temporary stay on lower-court ruling. That means the mandate is still in place for now – at least until the full court can rule on the stay, maybe Friday.

In the meantime Tuesday, the state Education Department was telling schools to continue enforcing the mandate, even though its status was up in the air at that point. That left schools scrambling to decide whether to continue with the mandate and whether to enforce it if they did. Some chose not to.

It’s likely this thing will go all the way up to the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, for a final ruling.

This entire ridiculous situation could have been avoided had the executive and legislative branches, which are controlled by the same political party by the way, had worked in concert to determine the need for a mask mandate and set the parameters for it.

There’d be no confusion. And there’d be no dysfunction.

But then again, that wouldn’t be government in New York, would it.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

1 Comments
niskyperson January 26, 2022
| |

but the same party is exec and has the legislature, why can’t they do anything?