Over the weekend, Gov. Parris N. Glendening and Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend bailed out of the Land of Pleasant Living to answer the party's call in Chicago, planning on spending the week huddled with the rest of the nation's top Democrats.
So, one gubernatorial aide asked yesterday, "Who's running the state?"
Well, Glendening is -- long distance.
We Marylanders can sleep easy this week knowing that if the militia needs to be called up, a state of emergency declared, or a pardon or reprieve granted, Glendening will be on the other end of the line to do so.
Of course, Maj. F. Riddick Jr., Glendening's chief of staff who was christened with a title, runs day-to-day operations at the State House.
But, unlike in some states, Maryland's governor does not have to formally pass on the authority for running the Free State when he's outside it -- although it has been done when the chief executive has left the country.
"Merely being outside of Maryland has no effect on the governor's authority to carry out the duties of his office," said Jack Schwartz, the assistant attorney general for opinions and advice.
"It has been the prior practice, particularly with some question about the governor's ability to receive urgent communications, that the governor has authorized the lieutenant governor, in writing, to carry out his functions," Schwartz said.
That wasn't the case in Gov. William Donald Schaefer's second term, after Lt. Gov. Melvin A. "Mickey" Steinberg was, for a variety of reasons, cast into utter darkness by his boss.
During that time, the two men rarely, if ever, spoke to each other, TTC and Schaefer deliberately snubbed Steinberg by refusing to formally turn over the reins of government to him when he left town.
Technically, the governor has to turn over control of the state to the lieutenant governor only if he is temporarily unable to perform the duties of his office.
The one time the transfer of power has taken place for any duration outside the normal out-of-town travel practice was in June 1977, when Gov. Marvin Mandel -- then on trial on federal bribery and racketeering charges -- turned over control to Lt. Gov. Blair Lee III. Two months later, Mandel was convicted.
Lee, the state's first lieutenant governor this century, was acting governor until January 1979, when Mandel returned to office for the final five days of the term, after his convictions were overturned, temporarily, on appeal.
Ironically, it was Mandel's election as governor by the General Assembly in January 1969 that led to the restoration of a constitutional provision for a lieutenant governor.
The provision was put back in place -- it had been removed from the Maryland Constitution in 1867 -- after Spiro T. Agnew was plucked from the State House to become President Richard M. Nixon's vice president.
At that time, with no lieutenant governor to be anointed, the General Assembly elected Mandel, then speaker of the House, as governor for the duration of Agnew's term. The Maryland Constitution was amended to what is now in place, and Lee was elected with Mandel in 1970.
Under current law, the president of the Senate takes over in the event that the governor and lieutenant governor cannot, well, govern.
If the offices of governor and lieutenant governor are vacant at the same time -- or if both of those officeholders are declared physically or mentally unfit to govern -- the president of the Maryland Senate would take control.
But the Senate president only would be the acting governor until the General Assembly could convene in a joint session to elect a governor.
And given the fact that the House of Delegates has 141 votes and the Senate just 47, the speaker holds the key to that election.
Pub Date: 8/27/96