By New York State Senator Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome, 47th District
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the governor has suspended more than 250 laws. While the New York State Constitution grants the executive this authority under a statutorily enacted state disaster emergency declaration, the frequent and sweeping nature with which certain provisions of law have been suspended or extended is alarming. This is especially the case considering that the state constitution also establishes that the power to create laws rests with the legislature.
I recently proposed legislation that will further ensure the legislature’s rightful role as a co-equal branch of government during a state disaster emergency declaration.
The legislation (S8387) would make the governor’s actions subject to review every 30 days. It also would require the governor to transmit a weekly report to the legislature during an emergency declaration and that there be communication between the executive and the parties affected by a suspension of laws during a state disaster emergency.
Additionally, the proposal would impose a maximum of 30 days for a disaster declaration. Any continuation of the declaration and the suspension of laws would require legislative approval, as exists elsewhere in the United States. All declarations would be in force for no more than 30 days without re-approval.
This legislation does not prevent a governor from doing what they feel is necessary to keep the people of New York safe, but it does prevent the governor from circumventing the legislature in certain instances. It also allows the people of the state of New York, through their legislative representatives, to have more of a say in how the state reconciles with a disaster affecting the state. By requiring the governor to solicit input from local governments, school districts, individuals, businesses, associations and other parties affected by suspended laws and other executive actions, the confusion and inconsistencies surrounding executive orders can be greatly reduced.
Much of what the governor has issued through his executive orders during the COVID-19 pandemic has been expressly allowed through the state constitution prior to the state’s current situation. However, some aspects of the shutdown and reopening have been used as an end run around the legislature and the state constitution, necessitating that the extension of any such powers come with the ability of the legislature to review and revise what the executive has done.
I also am calling on the legislature to address any potential legislative actions taken by the executive, review all that has been put forward and make determinations accordingly to pass legislation that would both remedy these issues. By making the legislature equal partners in the process of disaster emergency declarations, we can better protect the rights of state’s residents and businesses.