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NY Legislature will, for first time, repeal some Cuomo pandemic mandates, officials say

Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks in Geddes, NY, on

Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks in Geddes, NY, on Monday. Credit: TNS/Darren McGee

ALBANY — The State Legislature will, for the first time, repeal some of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s pandemic directives, rolling back measures criticized by restaurant owners and Republicans as too restrictive, officials said Tuesday.

The Senate and Assembly plan to vote Wednesday to repeal a Cuomo mandate requiring a food purchase when ordering an alcoholic beverage in restaurants and taverns. The governor, using extraordinary powers granted him at the beginning of the pandemic, had issued the mandate to reduce crowding and lingering at indoor venues.

The repeal will be effective immediately when both houses complete voting, likely Wednesday afternoon.

The legislature also will repeal a Cuomo rule that allowed volunteers in significant governmental roles or positions to ignore financial disclosure and transparency obligations imposed on public officials. This rule had come to be known as the "Larry Schwartz rule," a reference to one of Cuomo’s top advisers and political loyalists who now is serving as his vaccine rollout czar on a voluntary basis.

Schwartz, a longtime Cuomo ally, also works for an airport concession company and is a governor’s appointee to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Finally, the legislature also will suspend compliance rules and fines for vaccine suppliers, acknowledging the issue is somewhat moot now that anyone 16 years and older is eligible to be vaccinated.

"As more New Yorkers continue to get vaccinated, and our infection rates continue to decline, 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," Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) said in a statement.

Following the legislators’ announcement, Cuomo senior aide Rich Azzopardi said: "With the numbers steadily decreasing, lifting this COVID-19-related restriction was something we were in the process of implementing in the coming days. We are pleased that the legislature agrees that we have made enough progress on COVID that New York is in a position to repeal this provision."

The governor issued more than 100 directives during the pandemic, along with changing or suspending some state laws. The legislature granted him extraordinary authority to do so early in 2020; the governor argued he needed the power to act quickly amid the rapidly spreading COVID-19 pandemic.

But some business owners and legislators complained it too often resulted in one person making all the critical decisions. In March, the legislature passed a law allowing it to curtail some of the governor's power.

Republicans, who have been lobbying Democratic legislators for months to take back some control from the governor, said Tuesday the action was overdue.

"Republican senators and Assembly members are elated that Democrats in Albany finally appear to be standing up to Governor Cuomo," Sen. Phil Boyle (R-Bay Shore) said. "It sure took them long enough."

Assemb. Edward Ra (R-Franklin Square) said the GOP proposed repealing the mandate on restaurants in March. But the idea went nowhere then.

"I’m happy we’re doing it. It’s a positive," Ra said, noting that, combined with warmer weather, the change will help businesses. "And from a global perspective, it’s good for us to push back" against Cuomo.

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