Both the Assembly and senate passed Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s emergency plan to redirect $40 million into efforts to combat COVID-19, better known as coronavirus. But there was one lawmaker who was part of the distinct minority: state Sen. Gustavo Rivera.
As the chair of the senate’s health committee, backing such a measure would seem almost second-nature, especially for the spread of a virus he himself described as a “serious health risk.”
But for Rivera, at least, there was more to Cuomo’s appropriations bill than meets the eye.
“The legislation we voted on last night was an attempt by the executive to exploit an incredibly sensitive situation for our state to further expand its authority and powers,” Rivera said of Cuomo, in a statement released Tuesday. “The legislature was forced to cave to the governor’s power-grabbing demand without proper vetting and debate under the guise of simple emergency funding to respond to a public health need.”
Rivera didn’t share details of what in the bill didn’t sit right with him, but it likely was the clause in the appropriations that expanded executive powers, giving Cuomo the power to “issue by executive order any directive necessary to respond to a state disaster emergency.” Such a provision could be interpreted as giving the governor sole power to act during any declared emergency, even if he doesn’t have the backing of the legislature.
“As chair of the senate health committee, I concur that New York must be ahead of the curve and prepare New Yorkers optimally to face this public health emergency,” Rivera said. “I did not vote in favor of the bill because of the unnecessary stipulations of expanded authority attached to the funding allocation.
“Rushing a vote like the one from last night when the legislature is in Albany almost every day during budget negotiations is just plain wrong.”
Joining Rivera in voting against the bill in the senate were Brooklyn Democrat Julia Salazar, Canandaigua Republican Pamela Helming, and Jamestown Republican George Borrello.
On the Assembly side, the appropriation passed 122-12, with Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz joining the majority.
Cuomo signed it into law Tuesday.