Following a weekend trip to a secret conservative confab, Governor Charlie Baker said Thursday that he would stop his practice of leaving the state — an act that triggers a constitutional transfer of power — without first informing the public.
Appearing on a WGBH radio show, Baker acknowledged his trip earlier this month to a gathering of high-level conservatives off the coast of Georgia. He called the trip, which was first reported by the Globe this week, “no big deal,” but he said he would put an end to his administration’s custom of not publicly acknowledging when the governor travels outside state borders.
“Any time I travel outside Massachusetts, we’ll make sure everybody knows that I’ve traveled outside Massachusetts,” he said during a regular radio appearance.
Baker has broken with his predecessors in not proactively alerting the public when the state’s chief executive leaves its borders. Under the state constitution, when a governor leaves the state, power is transferred to the next in line, usually the lieutenant governor.
During the weekend of March 4, Baker left on a Friday and returned on a Sunday, meaning that executive authority rested with the lieutenant governor, Karyn Polito. The administration did not disclose details of the governor’s trip until this Wednesday, when the Globe apprised Baker aides that the newspaper knew where the governor had gone.
The governor frequently insists he wants to shy from national politics, but the Georgia trip marks the latest engagement with GOP groups, which the administration tends to downplay. Shortly after winning election in 2014, but before taking office, Baker traveled to meet with Republican governors, a trip not disclosed by aides until after the Globe reported it.
Baker, who spoke on an education panel during the early-March retreat that was hosted on Sea Island by the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington-based think tank, said he had spent most of the weekend indoors and spoke with admiration of some of the other sessions. “I never really got outside,” he said during the radio interview.
The Georgian weekend with top conservative powerbrokers came as establishment Republicans have been casting about for an answer to GOP presidential front-runner Donald J. Trump. Baker has said he would not vote for Trump, but has himself stirred increasing buzz among party insiders already looking ahead to 2020.
According to a copy of the weekend program obtained by Huffington Post, the weekend was also scheduled to include appearances by Karl Rove, the political guru for President George W. Bush; Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell; House Speaker Paul Ryan; and political commentator Bill Kristol, one of the leading proponents of the Iraq war.
“By the way, the conversation with [Apple chief executive] Tim Cook was also really interesting,” Baker added.