ALBANY – Will it be “acting Gov.” John J. Flanagan Jr. in charge of New York State at any point this week?
The Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia is attracting both Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, but if they attend at the same time, it would set up a rare scenario when the Senate majority leader – in this case, Flanagan, a Republican from Huntington – technically would be acting governor.
Whether that happens was uncertain until Tuesday evening. That’s when Hochul’s office called – after The Buffalo News posted an online story about the matter – to say Hochul will not travel out of state if Cuomo is out of state this week. That means Cuomo and Hochul will not be in Philadelphia at the same time before the Democrats end their convention Thursday night.
Earlier, Cuomo’s office referred to the question as an academic point. “The reality is, the governor of New York is the governor no matter if he is traveling in Buffalo, Brooklyn or Boise. That’s pretty much been the case since the invention of the telephone,” said Cuomo spokesman Richard Azzopardi.
Article IV, Section 5 of the New York Constitution states that the lieutenant governor serves as governor if the elected governor is “impeached, is absent from the state or is otherwise unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” If both the governor and lieutenant governor are absent from the state, the president of the Senate – in this case, Flanagan – “shall act as governor.”
In May 2015, Hochul sought to have a bit of fun when Cuomo went to the Caribbean for a weekend getaway. She tweeted out three things that she planned to do as governor: make her then-family cat, Big Boy, the official state pet, make Buffalo’s Dyngus Day Parade the official state parade, and make chicken wings the official state food. None of that happened, and Big Boy has since died.
There was no such Twitter fun from Hochul’s office Tuesday, nor would her office respond to an email about her travel plans this week.
Practically speaking, there would be little for an acting governor to do in Cuomo’s absence, given his hands-on control of the state’s executive branch – not to mention the wrath that would be brought down on an acting governor if, say, he or she were to pardon someone in prison, or call out the National Guard or call a special session of the Legislature.
While there are nearly 400 bills that passed the Legislature and that Cuomo has not yet acted on, none is pending in the Governor’s Office.
Philadelphia is just 90 minutes away from the New York State border – especially with troopers behind the wheel of his SUV.
If need be, Cuomo said from Philadelphia, “I can get back very quickly.”