Well Pennsylvania – you may not see the job of Lieutenant Governor on the ballot come November 2nd! PA House Representative Seth Grove (R-Dover Township) is suggesting an amendment to the state constitution that would eliminate the position of Lieutenant Governor altogether.
Grove’s main argument for eliminating the position is purely financial. “It’s really looking at what we have in [the state] government, and [asking the question] do we need it anymore and is there a better way to do it [in the future]?” Grove said in a published interview. With a state debt that is expected to hit $9.5 billion according to Governor Ed Rendell’s latest budget, Grove believes that getting rid of the Lieutenant Governor’s office would give the Commonwealth a bit more money to work with in these tough economic times. Typically, the budget for the Lieutenant Governor and his staff fluctuates depending on the amount of responsibility the Governor bestows upon it. Such office budgets can range anywhere from $500,000 to just over $1.36 million per year. It may not seem like a lot, but Grove believes that the money could better serve the people of Pennsylvania in other areas. (To read more about Grove’s bill, click here)
One of the big (and probably the most obvious) questions surrounding Grove’s bill is who will be next in the line of succession should the Governor be unable to finish his or her term. According to the current PA Constitution, which was adopted in 1873, the President Pro Tempore of the PA Senate would take over as chief executive of the state if the Lieutenant Governor is unavailable. Such a thing as this happened in 2008 when Lieutenant Governor Catherine Baker Knoll died due to complications involving cancer and Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati took over her duties. However, Grove does not believe that elevating the President Pro Tempore to the Governor’s Mansion would be a good idea since President Pro Tempore is an appointed position by the PA Senate and not an elected one by the people of Pennsylvania. Other issues include the Governor and President Pro Tempore being from different political parties or the fear that one person would hold a huge amount of political power and influence over the state’s legislative and executive branches. The state of New Jersey recently created an office of the Lieutenant Governor, when the President Pro Tempore of their state Senate started exercising unrestricted political power over their state government upon a governor’s resignation. But succession is rare in Pennsylvania. Of all the Lieutenant Governors in Pennsylvania history, only two succeeded to the governor’s office, one for just 19 days. Two others served as the “acting governor” briefly, and only two lieutenant governors were ever been subsequently elected to the top office. No more than nine tried the following election year and lost.
However, some political observers are quick to point out that the office of Lieutenant Governor tends to work better (and be more useful to the people of the Commonwealth) when the Governor and Lieutenant Governor function as a unified team rather than a political marriage made in party conventions. A unified partnership is also rare in Pennsylvania politics and hasn’t really happened since the 1970’s, when Lieutenant Governor Ernie Kline served under Governor Milton Shapp and was an intimate adviser and confidant. Typically, the Governor and Lieutenant Governor are just meant to balance the party ticket in an election year and are elected separately, doomed to a political union of ignorance. Personally, I wonder if we are going to start eliminating useless positions in the Pennsylvania government, why not eliminate some of the wasteful committees and executive agency that burden our political structure? Such an idea as this has already been proposed by acting-Lieutenant Governor Scarnati, not because he is trying to save his “second” job, but because he feels all options should be considered when battling Pennsylvania’s rising debt. Another idea could be the elimination of the Governor and Lieutenant Governor being elected on separate ballots, thus forcing more unified political fronts. Such a simple amendment as this could make the Lieutenant Governor function more like the Vice-Presidency of the United States; not as a “fill-in” in waiting, but as a senior adviser and policymaker in the same vein as George H.W. Bush, Al Gore, Dick Cheney, and Joe Biden.
Amending the state Constitution requires the measure to pass the Legislature in two sessions and be approved by voters on a ballot. Currently, seven states do not have a lieutenant governor: Tennessee, West Virginia, Maine, New Hampshire, Wyoming, Oregon, and Arizona.
Do you feel that we should have a Lieutenant Governor in Pennsylvania?
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