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NYS senators introduce bill limiting emergency declarations

Submitted photo Sen. Patrick Gallivan speaks during a news conference.

Two Republican state senators from Erie County want to give local legislatures a say in local emergency designations.

State Sen. Patrick Gallivan, R-Elma, has introduced S.7545 with co-sponsorship from Sen. Edward Rath III, R-Williamsville, to make proclamations extending local states of emergency issued by a county executive, mayor or town supervisor subject to the approval of the local governing body. It also would make all orders by a local health department effective for five days and then require extensions to be approved by the applicable local legislative branch.

“Chief elected officials are authorized by state law to declare a local disaster emergency, when such is warranted. Nonetheless, any extension to such disaster emergency declarations and orders ought not to be made unilaterally, as they circumvent the legislative process and limit the input of elected representatives. This bill will better hold local governments accountable and appropriately limit the scope of disaster declarations going forward,” Gallivan wrote in his legislative justification.

The bill was introduced Wednesday, one day after the Erie County Legislature’s minority caucus introduced a resolution calling on the state Legislature to revoke Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz’s emergency powers.

Under state law, a county executive can declare a county-wide state of emergency for 30 days but have the authority to extend a declaration for another 30 days. Local emergency orders, such as a mask mandate, last five days but can be extended.

Earlier this year, the state Legislature passed legislation that eliminated the governor’s authority to pass new mandates under a nearly year-long COVID-19 emergency declaration, though the governor kept the ability to extend or amend existing COVID-19 mandates. Any new mandates would require a five-day notification for lawmakers and a chance for legislators and local governments to respond.

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