About that Gov Lite amendment

I received this email last week…

Long time reader of your blog.

Could you comment on your blog about the Lt. Governor Constitutional Amendment vote, set for next Tuesday? I’ve seen very little written about this, anywhere in the state.

I am generally for it, but for the life of me, I can’t figure out what the point of the job of Lt. Gov. if it passes. I’ve long thought if we have to have the office, why not fold up and combine the Sec. of State into the Lt. Gov’s office?

As it is, if this passes, the next Lt. Gov. will essentially be an elected staff member of the Governor’s office, with no role in Senate. I guess that is fine, especially after watching the candidates for the office two years ago throw themselves around the state, spending millions, for a part time job. But the amendment could be better thought out.

… and decided to wait for Cindi Scoppe to explain it, which she did quite adequately on Sunday, in what we used to call a “steak and steak” presentation — both an editorial endorsement, and a column that elaborates upon the same subject.

To answer the reader’s questions from my own perspective:

  • There isn’t any point to the lieutenant governor’s office, beyond being prepared to take over if the governor dies.
  • That’s different from the duties of the secretary of state.
  • There’s no reason for a member of the executive branch to preside over the Senate. Cindi explained very well Sunday how how nonessential the gov lite is in that role.

Basically, it has never made sense for the person a heartbeat away from the governor’s office not to have run on the same platform as the governor. It means that if the governor dies or otherwise leaves office, the position will be filled by someone who in no way shares the characteristics or goals or vision that the voters opted for in electing that governor.

Basically, this change gives the position a purpose it had lacked, and shows greater respect for the wishes of the people as expressed in elections.

It’s not a big deal. It’s really not much of a reform, nothing like what South Carolina needs. (It’s one of the least consequential things we pushed for with the Power Failure series in 1991, and ever since as an editorial topic.) But as Cindi said, it’s something. And more than that, it’s one tiny thing that the status quo worshipers in the Legislature have allowed us to vote on. If we say no to it, I assure you, they will wave that around as proof that we don’t really want reform in South Carolina.

11 thoughts on “About that Gov Lite amendment

  1. Jason

    Thanks for writing that Brad.

    I wrote the email to you, and with the line about the Sec. of State, because I was doing nothing more than just fishing for something for the Lt. Gov. to do, in any official capacity, that doesn’t really require specific expertise – so Sec. of State is what I came up with, that’s all. And consolidating offices seemed like a decent thing. Some states have their Attorney General as next in line, for instance.

    I guess it is up to a future Governor to give a Lt. Gov. something to do. I wonder if it would still receive a part time, roughly $45K a year salary? So who gets the gig? Someone retired, who can fill out a term for a few years, if a Governor dies or resigns? Or a full time gig, meaning paying enough, and with enough responsibilities to attract someone younger and ambitious, and wanting to do it full time?

    Does a Governor use a Lt. Gov. in a real job, like Chief of Staff, or assign the Lite Gov. to funerals and ribbon cutting? I mean, a Lite Gov., because it will be an elected job, will be a job that a Gov. cannot fire the appointee from.

    I wonder how a Lt. Gov. nomination would go? Would a future party nominee wait till after a primary to name their ‘running mate’, or before?

    All this is just thinking and thought experiments, and not in opposition to the actual amendment.

    I agree with Scoppe, that if this doesn’t pass, this really nothing of a reform, then forget consolidating much of all of these nine elected, executive offices we have, for the next 20 years.

    FWIW – the office of Lt. Gov. and its descendent is a vestige of colonial days, when at times, Royal, Crown appointed Governors, would be away for months at a time, so an office of Lt. Gov was created so someone could manage executive affairs until the Royal Governor came back, or a new one was appointed by the government in London.

  2. Dave C

    I appreciated Cindi’s analysis but will probably quit reading The State when its website goes into a paid-only subscription service next month. Brad, are you going to follow suit with the blog?

  3. bud

    The RealClearPolitics website has Obama winning 303 electoral votes. That’s with no tossups. I concur. I think the slight breeze at the back of the President is enough to give him the tossup states of CO and VA. Losing both gives him 281. Romney’s best path to an upset win remains with OH. That along with CO, VA, FL and NC from the swing state list would give him 275, just barely enough.

    Nate Silver has it 307 which is a statistical “fit” number which suggests 303 as the single most likely outcome. Most other sites including Huffpo and TPM are in line with this. Unless the polls are wrong Barack Obama will be our president for the next four years.

  4. bud

    If voting against the Lt. Gov with Gov ammendment will make it less likely to see any more restructuring then count me in as a NO.

  5. tired old man

    I think this issue is total nonsense, beginning with Cindi’s absurd notion that “There’s no reason for a member of the executive branch to preside over the Senate.” — when US Constitution provides an excellent example in requiring the vice president of the United States to preside over the US Senate.

    Beyond that is the very chilling effect this proposal introduces. If you want to be a future lt gov, then you basically have to lay out your entire political and personal life for pre-examination by your would-be running mate. And what happens should you lose, and some time later wind up attempting to run for governor — and against the person to whom you have unveiled your deepest secrets?

    Lastly, I like knowing that Nikki Haley sleeps restlessly, knowing that Glenn McConnell would bring a different philosophy (and indeed a new staff and vision). I bet Mark Sanford tossed and turned, too.

    Beyond that, lies that the reality that I like knowing that if a governor is turned out by indictment or national advancement that an objective replacement would share their dirty laundry with investigators. Keeps ’em honest.

    And, my parting shot is that you can predict that future lt govs would be picked for their monetary connections and not for any public service ability.

    Regardless whether it’s a lt gov or a secty of state (and maybe an atty general in a state or two), EVERY state has someone tasked with being the one who would take over.

    I prefer voting on that person rather than giving a governor a bit more power to abuse or misuse.

    I thought Cindi Ross Scoppe’s column was shallow, uninformed, and about 30% of her normal writing and argument ability.

  6. Kathy

    tired old man, excellent comment. I’ll be voting no. I must admit that I smile every time I think about Nikki knowing that Glenn McConnell is “waiting in the wings.”

    I know this ridiculous amendment will probably pass since voters love to mark that “yes” box. Too bad we can’t mark a box on the ballot to force our representatives to pay attention to a serious problem or two instead of dreaming up this kind of falderol.

  7. tavis micklash

    “Beyond that, lies that the reality that I like knowing that if a governor is turned out by indictment or national advancement that an objective replacement would share their dirty laundry with investigators. Keeps ‘em honest.”

    Really? I think a separate office is in no means a guarantee of honesty.

    2 words. Ken Ard.

  8. bud

    TOM, I would add that given the sorry track record we have for electing governors it is not a good idea to give them MORE power.

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