Assembly Dems eye removing Cuomo COVID emergency powers amid scandal

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Democrats who run the state Assembly privately huddled Wednesday to craft a plan to remove the emergency powers given to Gov. Andrew Cuomo last year to address the coronavirus pandemic.

The move comes amid outrage over Cuomo’s COVID-19 nursing home scandal, which included undercounting deaths of residents by 50 percent, according to a withering report issued last month by the state attorney general.

“We need to remove the governor’s emergency powers immediately,” Assemblyman Tom Abinanti (D-Tarrytown) said following the virtual meeting.

But Abinanti said more time is needed to refine an acceptable proposal. The Legislature wants to avoid what many critics have accused Cuomo of doing — micro-managing the activity of businesses and houses of worship.

“It’s not appropriate for the Legislature to determine when a bar should close,” he said.

The emergency powers, which expire April 30, allow Cuomo to issue emergency executive orders that suspend existing laws in order to address the pandemic. The Legislature approved a law last March giving the governor the extraordinary powers.

Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou (D-Manhattan) said, “The governor never needed the emergency powers. His emergency powers were already extensive.”

Support in the Legislature to rein in Cuomo’s COVID-19 powers skyrocketed in the wake of The Post’s recent revelation that top Cuomo aide Melissa DeRosa privately admitted his administration for months hid the total number of nursing home residents killed by COVID-19 and other information from lawmakers and the public over fear that federal prosecutors would use it “against us.”

The Post’s scoop — based on an audiotape obtained from the private meeting — has sparked outrage, including calls for Cuomo to be impeached or censured amid and a probe by the FBI and Brooklyn US Attorney’s Office.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) and the Democratic leadership are also preparing a package of bills to beef up oversight and accountability of nursing homes.

The Democratic-led Senate on Monday passed a series of bills to strengthen patient safety and disclosure of reports and ratings of nursing homes.

The governor proposed his own nursing home reform measures last week in light of the scandal, including increased penalties for safety violations and staffing level requirements.

Cuomo last week said emergency powers “have nothing to do with nursing homes.”

Cuomo spokesman Jack Sternie said Tuesday, “Off the bat, I’d remind everyone that under the current situation, the legislature can overturn ANY of the Gov’s actions through a simple majority resolution.”

The Legislature has not rescinded or overturned any of Cuomo’s hundreds of pandemic-era directives.

The governor first came under fire for a controversial state Health Department March 25, 2020 directive that required nursing homes to take recovering coronavirus patients discharged from hospitals without testing to see if they were no longer infected.

Cuomo rescinded the policy on May 10 without admitting it was a mistake and state Health Commissioner Howard Zucker last week defended the policy as appropriate given concerns about hospitals getting swamped with COVID-19 patients.

More than 13,600 nursing home residents were killed by COVID-19, updated state data reveal — about 5,000 more than the Cuomo administration reported just a few weeks ago. The death tally tops 15,000 when including residents who lived in other long-term care and assisted living facilities.

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