New York State

State legislative Dems say goodbye to more of the governor’s directives

You don’t have to worry about “Cuomo chips” anymore.

People sitting outside at a bar in Alphabet City on October 24th.

People sitting outside at a bar in Alphabet City on October 24th. Erik Pendzich/Shutterstock

Several weeks ago, state lawmakers nominally repealed the expansive emergency powers they granted to Gov. Andrew Cuomo at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. Wednesday marks the first time, however, that they are actually voting to repeal some of the nearly 200 executive orders that still remain in place. “It is time to begin removing certain restrictions and regulations that are no longer necessary, so we can safely reopen and rebuild our state's economy,” state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said in a press release. 

Three resolutions are passing the state Senate and Assembly Wednesday. The first will repeal the much mocked rule that has forced bar patrons to purchase food with their alcoholic beverages. Another resolution repeals various rules concerning health care providers, such as one requiring them to administer vaccines within one week of receiving them. A third proposal will make people like former Secretary to the Governor Larry Schwartz subject to the Public Officers Law when they “volunteer” for state service. Resolutions do not require the governor’s approval to take effect. 

The Cuomo administration is downplaying the significance of the state Legislature voting to overrule his emergency directives by claiming the rules were going away this week anyway, though the governor hadn’t said so publicly. “With the numbers steadily decreasing, lifting this COVID-related restriction was something we were in the process of implementing in the coming days,” spokesperson Rich Azzopardi said in a statement about the food and alcoholic drink requirements. Yet the three issues getting voted on Wednesday were missing from the list of other pandemic rules that the governor announced would be lifted in upcoming weeks. 

COVID-19 cases are decreasing across the state to levels last seen in the fall. That means the time has come for New Yorkers to get back to eating and drinking until the wee hours of the morning, according to a press release from the governor. New York City pub crawlers can grab a seat at bars starting May 3. Curfews for outdoor and indoor dining are respectively ending May 17 and May 31. Catered events can resume inside private residences starting May 3. 

The restaurant industry is unsurprisingly jammed about the upcoming changes, which follow months of advocacy from business owners. “With vaccinations going up and positivity rates going down, the hospitality industry can set our sights on rebounding this spring and summer as we scratch and claw our way back to profitability,” Melissa Fleischut, president and CEO of the New York State Restaurant Association, said in a press release. These changes, as well as those passing the Legislature Wednesday, will also take some political pressure off the governor and Democratic lawmakers alike. 

An informal process has seemingly been driving some top decision-making in the state Capitol in recent weeks. Republicans complain. The Democratic supermajorities eventually adopt some of the changes the legislative minorities were advocating for after some testy back and forth. This happened with efforts to curtail Cuomo’s emergency powers. It happened with calls to establish an impeachment investigation of alleged misconduct by the governor. The likes of “Cuomo chips” are going kaput, and New York Republicans are feeling good. “Assembly Republicans advocated for this for months,” Assembly Minority Leader William Barclay said in a statement.“This is a step in the right direction, but much more needs to be done.”

The timeline Democrats have adopted to enact these changes has created a new line of attack for Republicans who say the legislative supermajorities are not moving fast enough. “The Legislature should not only immediately repeal these nonsensical, non-scientific orders – we should also fully repeal the Governor’s emergency powers and restore local control,” state Senate Minority Leader Robert Ortt said in a statement. It is just one more sign that GOP attacks on the pandemic rules are not ending anytime soon. All of Cuomo’s executive orders expire May 6 unless the governor extends them for another 30 days, which the Democratic supermajorities could always overrule. That means Republicans have still got plenty of Cuomo orders to complain about.