Assemblyman Michael Gianaris, D-Queens, joined advocates at the Capitol on Monday to present their case that Gov. David Paterson can legally appoint a lieutenant governor, a post that has been vacant since Paterson took over from former Gov. Eliot Spitzer in March 2008. The lieutenant governor presides over the Senate and has the power to cast a tie-breaking vote in the Senate, which has been split 31-31 for almost a month.
Gianaris and the heads of Citizens Union and Common Cause sent a letter to Paterson outlining the idea, which is based on their reading of the state Constitution and the state's public officers law.
Section 43 of the public officers law states, "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."
"Nothing in section 43 indicates that it does not apply to the office of Lieutenant Governor," Gianaris' group argues in their letter to Paterson. This is, they add, "in sharp contrast" to Section 42 of the public officers law, "which provides for special elections in certain circumstances and expressly excludes the 'offices of governor or lieutenant governor.' ... The plain and unambiguous language of this section must be read to authorize the filling of a Lieutenant Governor vacancy by gubernatorial appointment."