The Flaw in the Lt. Governor Legislation

On its face, making sure that the executive power is transferred to the Lt. Governor when the Governor can’t act (like when he’s in Iraq during an 8″ snow “storm”) is, well, a freaking good idea, no? But the problem is that there is a deeper root problem not being addressed by any of the legislation being proposed.

One bill, sponsored by Rep. Alfred Gemma, D-Warwick, restores the original language of the state Constitution and allows the lieutenant governor to take charge when the governor is out of state. Yesterday, committee Chairman John J. DeSimone, D-Providence, introduced a bill, which was not heard, that would put the lieutenant governor in charge when the governor leaves the continental United States. Any constitutional amendment would need voter approval in November.
While Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts offered her support for Gemma’s bill, Governor Carcieri opposes it. The governor believes the bill isn’t practical and could present problems, such as “chicanery” by a lieutenant governor who could meddle in day-to-day affairs, said Jeff Greer, Carcieri’s deputy executive counsel.
“But given the factual situation [of the snowstorm], you’d agree with the premise that something needs to be done?” questioned committee member Rep. Peter Kilmartin, D-Pawtucket.
“No, I can’t agree with that,” Greer said. “I think the governor has the discretion to call upon elected officials. … You can debate whether that should have been done [in the storm].”

I disagree with Greer on this one, but I understand the Governor’s suspicion of pontential “chicanery”. The solution is pretty simple: stop the asinine method we have of electing a separate Lt. Governor (usually of a different party). Make the Governor and Lt. Governor running mates. One would think that the trust inherent in a combined ticket would alleviate suspicions and make the whole transfer of power–both actual and constitutional–a lot simpler.

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15 years ago

At the very least, the legislation should provide for an intervening Lt. Gov. election so that one can be elected by the people with the new powers in mind. Our current LG was elected so that she would be well-positioned to run for Governor, not to run the state.
Additionally, am I the only one that thinks that putting the Speaker of the House in charge when both are absent is a bad idea? I think the power should move through the executive branch alone (preferably people elected statewide), particularly in emergency situations. Even the State Police Superintendent would be a better choice.

15 years ago

My concern has to do with something I know has happened, though probably not with great frequency in other states when the Governor and Lt. Governor were of different parties and had minimal communication. I have a good friend who used to work for the former governor of Arkansas (yeah, that one). Prior to being the Governor, he was the Lt. Governor. Whenever the then governor left the state, even if for only a hour or a day, he became Acting Governor. As “acting governor,” he had ALL the powers of the elected Governor at that time. One thing he used to do, simply to irk the governor’s staff (the Lt. Gov. and the Governor hated each others guts) was to fire the governor’s entire staff and have the state police escort them out of the Capitol with all of their belongings. Then, when the “real” governor came back, he’d have to contact his staff and have to “rehire” them all. It eventually turned out that the Governor had to resign due to scandal, and the Lt. Governor became governor, and then was reelected several more times. Admittedly, Arkansas’ Constitution is very generous regarding the powers of an “acting governor,” but it’s something that we have to be very careful not to emulate. Exceptions make bad policy. My point is, be very aware of the details when someone is doing something out of “good intentions”. They may intend to do good, but will most likely open a can of worms by acting too hastily. Here’s a link to a very similar news story from Arkansas that can highlight some of the potential problems of granting a Lt. Governor or anyone else too much executive power in the absence of a Governor: 2006/06/14/News/336614.html Fortunately, the then current Acting Governor referenced… Read more »

Ragin' Rhode Islander
Ragin' Rhode Islander
15 years ago

How’s this for a nightmare scenario?
Lt. Governor Patrick Crowley has again received the endorsement of the state AFL-CIO …

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