A new era of leadership is underway in New York, as Kathy Hochul was sworn in as the state’s 57th governor on Monday, following Andrew Cuomo stepping down from the position.
Hochul became the state’s first female governor after Cuomo announced he would be stepping down as governor two weeks ago due to sexual harassment charges filed against him in a report from the office of Attorney General Letitia James. On Tuesday, Hochul made her plans to serve the people of New York very clear, headlined by instituting a mask mandate for all school districts throughout the state for the upcoming school year.
“My number one priority is getting children back to school and protecting the environment so they can learn safely,” Hochul said in a press conference. “I am immediately directing the Department of Health to institute universal masking for anyone entering our schools.”
Hochul said the state will use $335 million in federal funds to launch a program that will provide coronavirus testing in all school districts. Hochul also advocated for teachers and staff members to be vaccinated, but aims to arrange weekly testing for those not vaccinated.
After more than a decade of serving New Yorkers, Cuomo addressed the claims made against him in the report, saying all should be closely analyzed but acknowledged that victims of any sexual harassment or assault to speak out. Cuomo spoke on how difficult the decision to resign as governor was in his final speech Monday.
“I am a fighter and my instinct is to fight this because it is unfair and unjust in my mind,” Cuomo said.
Officials from the state Assembly announced last week that they will continue their impeachment investigation of Cuomo, reversing a previous decision to suspend the probe. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said the Judiciary Committee will issue a final impeachment report and continue to analyze all the evidence provided to them.
Heastie also said the release of the report will not interfere with any federal, state, and local investigations into Cuomo. Acting Nassau County District Attorney Jouce Smith said in a statement that her office will investigate if any of Cuomo’s alleged misconduct occurred in the county.
Assemblyman Charles Lavine — the North Shore Democrat leading the impeachment investigation as chair of the chamber’s Judiciary Committee — advised the speaker that the state constitution “does not authorize the legislature to impeach and remove an elected official who is no longer in office,” Heastie said.
While the constitution empowers lawmakers to disqualify an impeached official from holding office in the future, it doesn’t indicate that impeachment proceedings can take place when removing that official from office “is not the central determination,” according to a legal memo Heastie cited.
Heastie said the committee’s probe would have spelled more bad news for Cuomo had it continued. Investigators unearthed “credible evidence in relation to allegations that have been made in reference to the governor,” including his administration’s handling of data about COVID-19 in nursing homes and his use of state resources to publish his memoir about the pandemic in addition to the well-documented sexual harassment accusations that were central to his downfall.
“This evidence — we believe — could likely have resulted in articles of impeachment had he not resigned,” Heastie, a Bronx Democrat, said in a statement.
Efforts to reach Lavine or a representative from the Assembly’s Judiciary Committee for an update on the impeachment probe were unavailing.