Proposal would limit governor's future state-of-emergency periods, increase oversight

May 20, 2020

Under a proposal co-sponsored by State Senator Patrick Gallivan, future declarations of emergency by the governor would have a set time limit and would include submissions of weekly updates that would be reviewed by legislators.

Under the legislation, a state of emergency declared by the governor would be limited to a maximum 30 days. Should the governor deem it necessary to extend the emergency order beyond those 30 days, he or she would need the approval of the Legislature. During the initial emergency period, the governor would also be required to submit weekly reports documenting decisions made. Those decisions would then be reviewed by legislators.

State Senator Patrick Gallivan, seen here during a January 2020 news conference, is co-sponsoring legislation that would set a time limit to future states of emergency declared by the governor, while increasing requirements for legislative review and oversight.
Credit WBFO file photo/Thomas O'Neil-White

"It doesn't prevent the decisions. It solely requires reports," Gallivan said. "Once the reports are made, those things are subject to review."

It would also require direct communication between the governor and parties directly affected by a suspension of laws under an emergency order. Supporters of the proposed legislation believe such communication and legislative feedback could have made a difference in lessening confusion among business owners, employees and the public during the COVID pandemic.

While not suggesting the Legislature's authority has been swept aside during the pandemic, Gallivan believes there has been inadequate review of the Governor Andrew Cuomo's power since New York State was put on "PAUSE."

"We've heard the governor talk that we have made it over the hump and now we're on the road to recovery. We have to be smart doing it. I concur with that part of it. But we are now well over two months into this emergency, and we've got over two months of an executive in charge of the state, absent legislative oversight or absent of the check-and-balance that is supposed to be in place and supposed to be what our system is," he said.

Legislative input, Gallivan believes, could also have been helpful in how the state has handled nursing homes during the pandemic, including the earlier controversial decision to admit COVID-positive patients who were discharged from hospitals.

"There was no mechanism to debate that back and forth. And then the directive came out, and we went to the next day," he said. "If a weekly report was submitted and that was among the directives that was submitted, there'd be a more appropriate forum to raise questions about it, to point to some of the potential issues with it, when we're getting the data that comes along with it, and offer suggestions to make change."

Co-sponsoring the bill in the State Senate with Gallivan is fellow Republican Joseph Griffo of Rome. A similar bill is being introduced in the Assembly by Democrats Marianne Buttenschon of Utica and Angelo Santabarbera of Rotterdam.