(The Center Square) – A Brooklyn assemblyman is defending a bill he introduced in the new legislative session, saying its intent in response to the current health emergency has been misinterpreted after an online backlash and sharp criticism from conservative voices.
Democrat Assemblyman N. Nick Perry has introduced Assembly Bill A.416 for the 2021-22 legislative session. The bill, which has roots stretching back to the 2015-16 session, has been amended in the latest go-round to address COVID-19.
State and local conservative advocates have taken aim at the bill, which in its current form would give the governor or his or her designees the authority to detain people deemed a threat to public health.
The bill states the governor would have such authority “upon determining by clear and convincing evidence that the health of others is or may be endangered by a case, contact or carrier of a contagious disease” and calls on “consultation with the (health) commissioner” before making such a determination.
The introduction of legislation granting executive authority for removal or detention of people sparked outcries of civil liberty violations within some conservative organizations.
In a Jan. 4 statement, Nick Langworthy, chair of the New York State Republican Party, described A.416 as “deeply disturbing” and “unconstitutional legislation.”
“The fact that this bill was even drafted and introduced gives you an incredible insight into the totalitarian, socialist mentality of New York Democrats,” Langworthy said.
In his news release, Langworthy later stated, “New Yorkers need to wake up. We cannot be complacent about the very real and present danger of our rights being taken from us under one-party Democrat rule.”
In a statement provided to The Center Square, Perry said he initially introduced the bill more than five years ago in response to public health concerns linked to the Ebola virus.
Explaining its reintroduction at this point, with amendments, Perry said, “there may be the need for people to be protected from a person or persons carrying a very deadly and transmittable virus, and this bill is designed to ensure that our government could lawfully act to protect all the people.”
Perry said the bill’s intent is not to impede New Yorkers’ rights under the U.S. Constitution.
“I am an American who understands our Constitution is sacred,” Perry said. “There is no intent, no plan or provisions that in my bill to take away or violate any rights or liberties that all Americans are entitled to under our Constitution, either state or federal.”
Although the bill is being introduced for the upcoming legislative session, there are no plans for immediate action, said Frank Shea, a spokesperson in Perry’s office.
“The bill hasn’t been actively pushed for passage, nor is it coming up for any vote or legislative action, contrary to what is being circulated online,” Shea said in an email interview.
The Center Square also reached out to Democrat Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office Jan. 4 since the legislation would give the executive branch new authority during public health emergencies.
Rich Azzopardi, senior adviser to Cuomo, said the outcry over A.416 is without merit.
“We never heard of the bill until this weekend, and it apparently is six years old, has no Senate sponsor and has never moved out of committee,” Azzopardi said. “We have real problems to focus on, and I urge the crazy uncles who are fueling this cut rate QAnon – and the politicians pandering to them – to knock it off, turn off Proud Boy Twitter and take a walk or something.