Questions Regarding the Gubernatorial Transition

As you know from the update we sent yesterday, Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced that he will be resigning as Governor of New York.  This means that his Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul will become the first female Governor of the State of New York. This transition has raised many questions, so we just wanted to take a moment to answer what we can right now.

When does the resignation take effect?

The Governor announced that his resignation would be effective 14 days from yesterday. This means that Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul will become the 57th Governor of New York on Tuesday, August 24, 2021.

Who is Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul?

Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul has been the Lieutenant Governor since 2015.  She is an attorney, who hails from Western New York. She has a long history of public service beginning almost 30 years ago when she was first elected as a board member on the Hamburg Town Board, where she served from 1994 - 2007.  She then served as the Erie County Clerk from 2007 - 2011 when she was elected as the Congresswoman for the 26th Congressional District. She served one term in Congress and was defeated by now-former Congressman Chris Collins.  In 2014, she was asked by Governor Andrew Cuomo to run as his Lieutenant Governor.  She will not only become the first woman to ever serve as Governor in New York, but she will also be the first Governor from outside of the New York City area since 1920.

What are the next steps?

Lieutenant Governor Hochul will use the next two weeks to put together her leadership team and make decisions regarding her cabinet.  It is not yet known how much change she will make at the agency level, but it is anticipated that there will be significant change in the senior level leadership team within the Governor’s office.

How long will Lieutenant Governor Hochul be Governor?

Lieutenant Governor Hochul will serve the remainder of Governor Cuomo’s term, which goes through December 31, 2022.  Next year is an election year for all statewide offices, so there will be an election for Governor. The Democratic and Republican primaries will occur on Tuesday, June 28, 2022, and the general election will be on Tuesday, November 8, 2022.  At this point, it is not clear who will be running in that race though most agree that Lieutenant Governor Hochul is very likely to be a candidate running for her own full term.

What does this mean for governing in New York?

As with any Gubernatorial transition in New York, there will be new faces and players to get to know. We will continue to build and develop relationships with the new individuals, and we will begin to schedule meetings and briefings as needed. This transition is a bit different in that we are mid-term, so bills that have passed the two houses and await the Governor’s signature are

still in play, and the new Governor will now be the one to evaluate and judge the legislation. We will watch to see what changes may be made at the agency level, and we will evaluate next steps in those areas as the changes are announced.

Who is going to be the new Lieutenant Governor?

This is an issue that did not have a clear answer until 2009. As you may recall, in 2008, then- Governor Spitzer resigned and was replaced by his Lieutenant Governor David Paterson. When Governor Paterson became Governor, the position of Lieutenant Governor remained open. The State Constitution was not clear on the issue, and while the vacancy did not initially matter, it became an issue in 2009, when control of the Senate became deadlocked at 31 Republicans and 31 Democrats.  When the Senate is deadlocked, the Lieutenant Governor is the tie-breaking vote. As there was no Lieutenant Governor at this time, Governor Paterson announced that he was appointing Richard Ravitch as Lieutenant Governor.  This appointment led to a court case that went all the way to the New York Court of Appeals, which ultimately decided that the Governor did have the power to appoint a Lieutenant Governor when there was a vacancy.

This all means that Lieutenant Governor Hochul, once she is sworn in as Governor, will have the power to appoint a new Lieutenant Governor to replace her. She has indicated that she will make this appointment soon after taking over as Governor.

What happens to the impeachment proceedings?

This is still unclear.  There are many members in both houses that would like to see the impeachment investigation and proceedings continue.  However, it is unclear as to whether the Governor’s resignation means that there are no longer grounds to proceed with the impeachment. Attorneys are reviewing that Constitutional question right now. Regardless of whether the impeachment proceedings continue, there are several criminal investigations that have been opened that will remain ongoing and are not impacted by the Governor’s resignation.

What’s next?

Lieutenant Governor Hochul made clear in her briefing to New Yorkers today that she will hit the ground running and is fully ready to lead the State of New York.  She knows there are many challenges ahead of her, and she is looking forward to laying out her priorities and vision shortly after she is officially sworn into office. She will take the Fall to begin to enact her priorities and act on her agenda.  She will also act on bills that passed both houses during the 2021 session.

She will kick off the 2022 legislative session with her first State of the State address, which is scheduled for Wednesday, January 5, 2022. A few short weeks later, she will present her first proposed budget.

As always, we will keep you posted on all developments.  Please let us know if you have any other questions that we haven’t answered her.

Harter Secrest & Emery LLP is a full-service law firm founded in 1894, with offices in Rochester, Buffalo, Albany, Corning, and New York City. With over 125 lawyers, we offer the depth and breadth of legal talent and experience necessary to achieve exceptional results for our local, regional, and national clients.

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