The New York State Assembly Minority today introduced legislation that would restore legislative checks and balances for emergency declarations exceeding 45 days and ensure judicial due process rights for any actions that affect fundamental constitutional rights.
“Undoubtedly, there will be times when immediate, direct action is needed from the Executive. This current pandemic has severely disrupted normal operations and required drastic mitigation,” said Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay (R,C,I,Ref-Pulaski). “However, ‘state of emergency’ doesn’t equate to ‘authoritarian rule.’ In any situation, a balanced, measured approach is necessary and the full complement of government must be levied. This bill ensures just that, and that every voice in New York is heard during times of crisis.”
Under the state law, the governor is able to issue an Executive Order to suspend laws and regulations during a state of emergency. On March 7, Gov. Cuomo declared a state of emergency due to the COVID-19 outbreak. He has since issued 33 Executive Orders imposing requirements on a wide range of critical issues, including forcing business closures, closing all schools and colleges in the state, overhauling election procedures and setting criteria for reopening the economy.
In the process, millions of New Yorkers have lost their jobs, thousands of people have been denied elective surgeries and have waited for non-emergency dental care and other health care, domestic violence cases have increased, drug overdoses have increased and many other health and mental health issues have increased.
“An emergency declaration is a delicate and stressful time for New Yorkers and it often requires extreme measures and quick action. In those times, though, there must be limits in place to protect against an extended, unnecessary concentration of decision making,” said Assemblyman Andy Goodell (R,C,I-Chautauqua). “I have proposed reasonable boundaries surrounding Executive authority that reestablishes the balance of power between branches of government and local authorities once the immediacy of an emergency has subsided. I urge the governor and Legislature to consider these common-sense proposals as we work through this health crisis.”
Specific provisions of the proposed legislation include:
- County-by-County Declaration – All state of emergency declarations would be done on a county-by-county basis rather than statewide, with a detailed explanation for each county based on the specific facts and circumstances of such county justifying the emergency declaration.
- Limited Duration – All emergency declarations would automatically end within 30 days, and could be extended by the governor for an additional 15 days. No other extension could occur without being authorized by the state Legislature.
- Local Authority – The county executive, chairperson of a county board of supervisors, or mayor of New York City would be able to request that the governor terminate any state of emergency that applies to their respective county. If the governor does not grant the request, he must provide the specific reasons why the request was denied.
- Due Process – Any Executive Order that impairs freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, freedom of worship, the equal protection of the law, the loss of liberty or property, or other fundamental constitutional rights would be subject to due process review, in a manner specified in the Executive Order and subject to independent judicial review.