Monday, December 11, 2006

Second in Command

Last week, Stateline.org had an article on the role of Lieutenant Governors across the country, and their varying roles in different states. In part, the article states that:
Lieutenant governors were more likely than any other officeholders to ascend to a governorship from 1980 to 2006, according to a study released Dec. 5 by the Florence, Ky.-based National Lieutenant Governors Association (NLGA). During that time period, about 25 percent of lieutenant governors became governor, whereas about 1 percent of state lawmakers became governor, the report said...

“In the last four to five years, I think you’ve seen a distinct trend in lieutenant governors becoming very visible and incredibly active in the day-to-day governance of their states,” she said.

Many governors relied heavily on their lieutenants after the states faced budget crunches earlier in the decade, Hurst said, and also when they first had to confront homeland security issues after the 2001 terrorist attack. Using lieutenant governors to tackle those comparatively new problems was a “natural next step,” she explained.

Chi agreed that more lieutenant governors have been playing more visible roles in recent years, but said he thought the degree of their prominence varies widely among the states. In states such as Indiana and Minnesota, the lieutenant governors play a “dual role” as both the governor’s next-in-line and the head of big cabinet departments, he said. In others, they serve in a ceremonial capacity and are often simply waiting for the opportunity to serve as governor, he said.

Forty-two states now have a lieutenant governor; New Jersey will elect its first in 2009.

In 24 states lieutenant governors run on the same ticket as governors, but in 18 states they run independently. Of the eight states with no lieutenant governor, Maine, New Hampshire, Tennessee and West Virginia put the presidents of their state senates first in line to succeed the governor. In Arizona, Oregon and Wyoming, the secretary of state is responsible for taking over.

Now I happen to think a lot of Pat Quinn, our LG, and think that he has been a sincere and passionate advocate for countless causes. But at the same time, without naming names, we have also had our share of lackluster LGs.

While I could argue both sides of this issue, I think that there is a legitimate debate as to whether it makes sense to have a Lieutenant Governor in Illinois, and if so, what the role of the office should be.

While we're kind of on the subject, I think an equal debate could be had as to whether we should have a separate Treasurer's office and Comptroller's office. Bills have previously been filed on the issue, but the discussion has never gotten any real traction.

Just some thoughts.

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