NY State of Emergency: Governor Once Again Suspends Competitive Bidding and Comptroller Review

     

As MTA “Disaster” Ends, Governor Declares New Gun Disaster

Cuomo’s transit system disaster lasted 4 years, longest of any in governor’s tenure

Hurricane Sandy: 2 Years, 3 Months
COVID-19: 1 Year, 3 Months 

Following the expiration of MTA and COVID-19 states of emergency, Governor Cuomo has issued a new disaster declaration on gun violence, Executive Order 211. The MTA state of emergency was first declared by Governor Cuomo on June 30, 2017 via Executive Order 168. The MTA declaration lasted for 4 years, expiring on June 29th, 2021. This is longer than the state’s emergency declarations for both Hurricane Sandy and COVID-19.

After repeated requests for the Governor to end the MTA state of emergency, on May 13, 2021, fifteen watchdog and advocacy groups asked the Legislature to pass a resolution to overturn EO 168. The groups said the order was an overly broad use of executive powers that suspended important anti-corruption and environmental safeguards, and undermined the fiduciary duty of the MTA Board. The EO allowed $467 million worth of contracts to be issued by MTA staff without prior MTA Board approval.

The Governor’s latest Executive Order 211 on gun violence suspends Sections 112 and 163 of the State Finance Law which relate to competitive bidding and the State Comptroller’s review of contracts. These sections are also suspended in a separate disaster declaration, Executive Order 198, which relates to Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River Flooding, and has been in effect for more than 20 months. The Governor’s FY 2020-2021 executive budget eliminated the requirements from Section 112 and 163 of the State Finance Law for a number of appropriations; this was opposed by the State Comptroller as well as Reinvent Albany and other watchdogs.

MTA Disaster Declaration Lasted Longer Than Hurricane Sandy’s Emergency Order
The MTA disaster declaration is the longest continuing state of emergency in Governor Cuomo’s tenure, lasting 1,460 days, or 4 years. According to research conducted by Reinvent Albany, emergency disaster declarations related to Hurricane Sandy lasted from October 26, 2012 to February 2, 2015 when Executive Order 135 expired, a total of 830 days (2 years and 3 months). Below is a list of executive orders that have been extended for more than a year by Governor Cuomo, as well as the current gun violence executive orders. 

Stated EmergencyExecutive Order(s) Declaring an EmergencyDuration of Emergency Declaration, to dateLength of Emergency Declaration
Gun Violence (currently active)EO 211July 6, 2021 - August 5, 202130 days
COVID-19EO 202-202.111, 205-205.3March 7, 2020 - June 24, 2021475 days:
1 year, 3 months, 18 days
Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River Flooding
(currently active)
EO 198-198.18November 20, 2019 - August 2, 2021622 days: 1 year, 8 months, 14 days
Hurricane SandyEO 47, 98, 109, 116, 134, 135October 26, 2012 - February 2, 2015830 days:
2 years, 3 months, 8 days
MTA DisasterEO 168 to 168.49June 30, 2017 - June 28, 20211,460 days:
4 years

Legislature Should Introduce Legislation to Require Legislative Approval for States of Emergency Lasting More Than One Year
Given the history of continued disaster declarations by the Governor, the Legislature should introduce and pass legislation that will require emergency declarations lasting more than one year to be affirmatively approved by the Legislature to help rein in the overuse of executive power. Under current law, the Legislature can pass a resolution to overturn an executive order or emergency declaration, but initial approval is not required. 

Under Section 28 of Article 2-B of the Executive Law, emergency disaster declarations cannot last more than 180 days, but may be renewed by the Governor. Suspensions of law once an emergency is declared can last a maximum of 30 days, but can also be renewed by the Governor. In practice, recent executive orders have both declared a disaster and suspended specific sections of laws for a period of 30 days. 

Research Notes: Governor Cuomo’s Executive Orders are available through an Executive Orders Page on his website, https://www.governor.ny.gov/executiveorders. However, this is not user-friendly and does not collate orders that were renewed. An easier to view list is available at Cornell Law School’s Legal Institute website. More recent orders should be accessed through the Governor’s website.