Thursday, July 9, 2009

Lieutenant Governor Ravitch

Can the Governor of New York appoint a lieutenant governor when the post is vacant? There's an almost comical need to do it -- the post is vacant because the lieutenant governor became Governor, which would normally be fine even though the LG is the backup to the governor, because the President of the state Senate is available as a backup to the backup, except that there is no clear President of the state Senate because of the deadlock there. So we need to know whether the appointment of an LG is legit.

It's not an easy question to answer offhand, but I will venture this much: Governor Patterson's claim of power is not frivolous. The NY state constitution says nothing about filling vacancies in the LG post, but the state's public officer law (section 43) says: "If a vacancy shall occur, otherwise than by expiration of term,with no provision of law for filling the same, if the office be elective, the governor shall appoint a person to execute the duties thereof until the vacancy shall be filled by an election." Well, a vacacny has occurred, other than by expiration of term, there is no other provision of law for filling it, and the office is elective. So this law would seem to fit the case.

Of course, to be confident, one would need to scour all of NY's constitution and laws to see if there are other provisions that bear on the issue. Too much for a mere blogger. But the text of the law seems to fit the case, and just because no one has tried it before doesn't mean it doesn't apply.

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