New York lawmakers voted on Friday to approve a bill to strip Gov. Andrew Cuomo of special temporary pandemic powers granted to him during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Democrat-majority Senate voted to repeal temporary powers that were granted to Cuomo in March 2020 at the start of the pandemic. The bill, S. 5357, would revoke Cuomo’s ability to issue new COVID-19 related directives.
Under the bill, directives that Cuomo had issued and are currently still in enforcement will continue with much greater legislative oversight. He can still extend or change directives that are currently in effect but will need five days’ notice to lawmakers or local elected officials before the changes go into effect.
The bill also provides legislators the ability to end the state of emergency, something that only Cuomo had authority to decide on previously.
“I think everyone understands where we were back in March  and where we are now,” Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said in a statement. “We certainly see the need for a quick response but also want to move toward a system of increased oversight and review. The public deserves to have checks and balances. This legislation creates a system with increased input while at the same time ensuring New Yorkers continue to be protected.”
The bill’s passing comes as Cuomo faces two major scandals that have seen growing pressure from both Republicans and Democrats for him to step down. Six New York Democrats on March 2 issued a letter calling for his impeachment over his handling of the state’s pandemic response and sexual harassment allegations against him.
The 63-year-old New York governor is accused of harassment by three women, two of whom are his former aides. He has also been under fire for withholding COVID-19 death data from state lawmakers and the public.
Cuomo’s administration in March 2020 ordered nursing homes to take back residents or take in new residents—even if they had tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.
It is unclear whether the policy led to additional deaths. Yet state officials refused to disclose how many nursing home residents died in hospitals, only revealing the figure after the state’s attorney general issued a scathing investigative report in January 2021.
Officials also rebuffed queries from state legislators on the data, claiming it could “be used against us” by former President Donald Trump’s administration.
Zachary Stieber contributed to this report.