New York's gubernatorial line of succession needs to be clarified to ensure a clear procedure for when the governor is incapacitated or unable to serve, the New York State Bar Association on Monday said.
The organization is backing an amendment to the state constitution that would enshrine a transition of power similar to the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
"The peaceful transfer of power is at the foundation of democracy. Recent events remind us we cannot take this for granted," said New York State Bar Association President Sherry Levin Wallach. “These proposed changes to our state Constitution are designed to provide clarity and direction for filling a vacancy in the chief executive position. Without it, we are vulnerable to political power plays and chaos.”
The organization's proposal would include the creation of a committee to determine if the governor is unfit to serve. The panel would be composed of the lieutenant governor, attorney general, comptroller and six officers of the cabinet.
The committee would determine if the governor is unift to serve by a majority vote and send the issue to the state Legislature. A declaration of removal would be required in both chambers with a two-thirds majority vote.
“New York should no longer ignore the potential crisis that would develop should a governor lack the physical or mental competence to continue to serve as governor,” said Christopher Bopst, the chair of the association’s committee that studied the issue. “A procedure must be adopted to provide for an orderly transfer of power.”
New York has had multiple questions over line of succession in recent years, including the appointment of two lieutenant governors by Gov. Kathy Hochul during her first year in office. Neither of Hochul's selections were considered by state lawmakers.
The bar association outlined further proposed changes, including having the temporary president of the state Senate or Assembly speaker formally resign from the Legislature if they succeed the governor, having succession to governor by a legislator be temporary due to impeachment or a short-term inability to serve. And the the power of the governor should not be transferred to the lieutenant governor if the governor is out of the state.
“Our committee has created a roadmap for the state Legislature to consider and it creates an order of succession complete with checks and balances,” Bopst said. “We urge the Legislature to pass these amendments during the current legislative session.”