While many of us were sleeping on Monday, state lawmakers approved a $40 million bill to grant Governor Andrew Cuomo expanded authority to respond to the coronavirus and a potential outbreak in New York.
The measure was signed into law by Cuomo earlier this morning, who called the measure necessary and needed. Some lawmakers, however, initially balked at the proposal given the scope of the powers Cuomo is being granted.
Here's a Q&A on what the law does.
1. What powers is Cuomo being granted?
Perhaps the most sweeping aspect of the measure is the ability of the governor to suspend local laws, ordinanes or regulations for any agency that is responding to a disaster. At the same time, the law provides for an expansive definition of what constitutes a "disaster" -- including relatively esoteric and unlikely events like "volcanic activity."
While that sounds broad, the law stipulates the suspension must be directly related to an "impending or urgent" threat if those provisions in question hinder the ability of the government to provide an adequate response, like quaranting people who test positive for the virus, hygiene protocols or closing schools.
Cuomo, at a Tuesday morning news conference, said that was necessary to prevent lawmakers from returning to the issue and passing further measures to respond to any disaster or emergency.
And the rather unusual disasters were included because they were part of an existing list of potential emergencies the state could encounter.
2. Why did lawmakers go along with this?
Initially, some members of the state legislature did not. A few grumbled quietly about expanding Cuomo's already expansive authority as the state's chief executive. A few others also questioned whether the language was even necessary. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, initially on Monday night, had to whip votes to get the measure over the finish line.
One lawmaker, Republican Assemblyman Angelo Morinello, told me in an interview the monetary needs outweighed the concerns over the expanded authority.
3. What will the money be used for?
That is perhaps more broadly defined than the powers outlined for the governor. The law allocates $40 million to the for "any agency, department or authority" for expenses related to the virus.
"Such funds shall be used for purposes including, but not limited to, additional personnel, equipment and supplies, travel costs, and trainings. A portion of these funds may be made available as state aid to municipalities for services and expenses related to the outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019," the law states.
Cuomo expects the response to the virus to be an expensive one, and he's also counting on federal assistance to help with the response.