Lawmakers in New York cried foul over a new piece of legislation that would allow state leaders to detain those identified as a “case, contact or carrier” of a contagious disease in the interest of protecting public health.
The legislation in question, Bill A416, was sponsored by State Assemblyman Noah Perry. Bill A416 would allow the governor or his or her delegates to detain a person who poses an “imminent and significant threat to public health” in a medical facility or some other facility designated by the governor. The bill did not actually mention COVID-19 nor cite specific criteria or locations for the detentions.
Critics pointed out that the bill’s vague provisions would allow unconstitutional and indefinite detainment. But Perry nevertheless defended the bill, arguing that it does not violate Americans’ constitutional rights.
In a statement, Perry told Fox News that he understands that the Constitution is sacred and that his bill has no intent to take away or violate any rights or liberties that Americans are entitled to. The bill will also uphold due process by requiring the governor or his or her delegates to first apply for a court order authorizing detention within three business days before actually detaining anyone.
Critics wasted no time denouncing the bill. State Assemblyman John Salka said he was disappointed that some of his colleagues would seek to add to Cuomo’s already numerous emergency powers.
Moreover, the governor cannot have sole authority to detain anyone as it is simply unconstitutional, said Salka. “Now is not the time to introduce a bill like this, giving the governor even more power over the people.”
Assemblyman Stephen Hawley shared the sentiment, arguing that the bill forfeits constitutional liberty in such a way that cannot be allowed.
Meanwhile, State Sen. George Borello said the mere introduction of bills like Bill A416 ultimately harms efforts to get New York through the pandemic.
On the other hand, Elizabeth Joy, who unsuccessfully ran for Congress in New York last year, called Perry’s bill “[straight-up] detention camp stuff.” In a tweet, Joy said a bill that would give Cuomo or any designated leader full power to detain people if deemed contagious was horrifying. “Wake up NY [and] Fight!” wrote Joy.
Conservative podcast host Allie Stuckey was also just as, if not more pointed, in her recent tweet on the matter. She cautioned that the bill may one day be used to forcibly detain residents for any reason the state sees fit.
An adviser for Cuomo maintains that the governor did not know about the bill. It was referred to the New York State Assembly’s Health Committee on Wednesday, Jan. 6, and is currently awaiting approval.
Cuomo also found himself in hot waters this month when he proposed a law that would make it a crime for any health provider to administer COVID-19 vaccine shots to anyone who tries to get them ahead of schedule.
At a press briefing on Jan. 4, Cuomo said health providers could already lose their license if they engage in any fraudulent activities regarding the distribution or administration of vaccines. But having a law that would criminalize such acts would mean that health providers may be prosecuted and face criminal penalties.
The announcement came over a week after a New York clinic was accused of administering COVID-19 vaccines to members of the public, rather than to frontline healthcare workers, as per the state’s directive. (Related: New York healthcare network under investigation for fraudulently distributing COVID-19 vaccines.)
Read the latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic at Pandemic.news.