BY MIKE NORRIS
I’ll never forget receiving the briefing from NYS Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker in early March with fellow colleagues about the dangerous potential of the coronavirus and the immediate need for emergency funding for preparation and equipment. It was clear to me from his presentation that this virus was severely impacting countries around the world and could pose a massive threat to our state — the likes of which we have not seen in decades.
Since then, the coronavirus has indeed shaken our economy, health system and small businesses, which will leave a lasting impact for years to come. Not to forget, of course, the incalculable cost of human lives lost across our great state. But we have made adjustments in how we communicate, interact with one another, and go about our daily lives. Our businesses have become innovative and adaptable in order to survive during this unprecedented situation. We wear our masks, social distance and sanitize our environments in order to protect one another. During the past several months, we have learned how to deal with this by working together as a strong community. Now that the majority of upstate New York has “reopened” and proper coronavirus protection measures are in effect, I believe the time has come to move forward to help rebuild our local economy and also restore governmental balance in Albany to address issues resulting from the coronavirus.
Since March, the governor has modified hundreds of laws and implemented over 40 executive orders. Now that even he acknowledges there is no longer a need for daily updates, I have joined my colleagues in calling for him to also relinquish the extra temporary powers that were granted to him. Additionally, my colleagues and I have written to the legislative leaders in both houses to ask them to reconvene to vote to end these powers ourselves. We believe the time has come to resume allowing our government to be a representation of the state’s 19.5 million New Yorkers through their representatives, and through the checks and balances of separation of powers as intended in our constitution.
The Legislature has a key role here. Oversight and a full review through legislative hearings are needed. Changes to laws may be necessary, and I believe the governor has a responsibility to share with the public and its representatives in the Legislature some key aspects to the decisions that were made during this crisis period so that, working together, we can better prepare our state for the future of this pandemic and its recovery.
As such, I believe we should convene public hearings to address the following concerns:
- Economy & Small Businesses: What criteria and logic were used to determine what was or was not an essential business? Why were big box stores open, but similar small businesses not? What process was in place for businesses and organizations to appeal closure status and have an opportunity to be heard in order to present protective plans and evidence?
- Healthcare & Nursing Homes: What safety procedures were in effect in our nursing homes? Did these facilities have proper PPE equipment? Were these facilities required to take back patients who tested positive for coronavirus? What changes in policies have occurred to ensure that these patients remain safe during this pandemic and future outbreaks?
- Unemployment: Why was the unemployment system unable to handle the demand for claims? What upgrades have been made to ensure that the system is fully functional for constituents going forward?
- State Budget and Finances: With extraordinary revenue shortfalls, our budget also needs a full examination of priorities and the Legislature should be involved now with these critical decisions.
These are the questions my constituents – and New Yorkers across our state – need and deserve answers to, and I will continue working to get those answers for them. Our state government was never intended to be ruled by one person and the time has come for either the governor to relinquish these powers or the Legislature to revoke them. I am proud to represent 134,000 people from Erie, Niagara and Orleans counties, and you deserve to have your voice heard through the legislative branch of our state government.
As always, please call my office at (716) 839-4691 or email me at email@example.com if I can be of any assistance to you.
Mike Norris represents the 144th district in the New York State Assembly.