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March 4, 2020

The following is a statement from New York Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Donna Lieberman, in response to the Emergency Powers bill being considered in the legislature.

“We commend the Governor’s leadership and decisive executive actions to limit the spread of the coronavirus, including efforts to expand virus testing, educate the public, and put essential health measures in place. We understand the need to act swiftly and secure appropriate funding, but the legislation that is being considered tonight significantly expands the emergency powers of the governor, an act that should never be taken lightly. Such a change requires thoughtful consideration and an open and informed debate – which has not happened. This legislation was printed just an hour before both chambers moved to debate it, without public notice or oversight. There are no answers to the critical question of what activities are contemplated by the governor that are not already authorized by the existing emergency powers law.

“After 9/11, the state legislature approved a drastically expanded emergency antiterrorism law that has not once been used to prosecute terrorism, but has been used to make other prosecutions easier. We should not repeat the mistakes of 20 years ago. While the legislature should move expeditiously to fund and support the necessary public health response, nothing requires them to expand executive power without adequate consideration of the need or potential consequences.”