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Legislature repeals, for the first time, Cuomo pandemic directives

ALBANY — For the first time, the State Legislature on Wednesday repealed some of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s pandemic directives — and hinted at more to come.

The Senate and Assembly unanimously rolled back three gubernatorial orders. Effective immediately, it’s no longer mandatory to make a food purchase when ordering an alcoholic beverage in restaurants and taverns.

Nor will vaccine suppliers be subject to fines and other sanctions for failing to distribute shots quickly.

Finally, legislators also repealed a Cuomo rule that allowed volunteers serving in significant roles in the pandemic effort to ignore financial disclosure and transparency obligations. This rule had come to be known as the "Larry Schwartz rule," a reference to one of Cuomo’s top advisers who has been serving as his vaccine rollout czar on a voluntary basis.

Each repeal taken up Wednesday was approved by a 149-0 vote in the Assembly and 61-0 in the Senate.

It was the first instance of lawmakers repealing any of the hundreds of directives Cuomo issued since the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Legislators themselves gave the governor extraordinary power to change or suspend laws to quickly declare shutdowns and take other actions. He used the power to set rules for food and retail businesses, schools and sports, among other activities.

But many, especially Republicans, had chafed about giving Cuomo too much power and creating a "one-man rule" situation in state government.

"Finally, some action that makes since," Sen. Peter Oberacker (R-Schenevus) "There are a number of unscientific, arbitrary executive orders that need to be terminated, and I truly hope today's action is the beginning."

"These repeals are just the beginning," Senate Deputy Majority Leader Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) said.

One immediate target might be Cuomo’s curfew on outdoor and indoor dining, officials said later.

Cuomo, just before the Senate voted on the repeals Wednesday, announced he was lifting the midnight curfew on outdoor dining May 17; for indoor dining, May 31. Legislative officials said they may act sooner to move up the date.

"Our restaurants and hospitality industry should not have to endure these restrictions for another day, let alone another month," Sen. Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) said.

Cuomo had justified the requirement that food be served with alcohol as a way to keep people from lingering indoors for hours.

Legislators said it was no longer necessary, given the widespread availability of vaccines.

"While the governor issued a wide range of executive orders to protect New Yorkers at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s time to safely repeal measures that are no longer necessary," Assemb. Monica Wallace (D-Lancaster) said.

Others noted customers and businesses were, at times, going through machinations just to comply.

"For some time, it’s been somewhat of a farce with people ordering items not intended to be eaten or (food) items being placed out" on tables, Assemb. Robert Carroll (D-Manhattan) said.

Assemb. Jodi Giglio (R-Baiting Hollow) said the requirement added to the struggles for bars and restaurants to stay in business and avoid layoffs.

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