It has been five months since Kay Ivey assumed the office of Governor of Alabama, leaving the state without a Lieutenant Governor. With that empty seat, some lawmakers are exploring the possibility of changing the Lt. Governor’s role.
According to the Decatur Daily, Senator Gerald Dial (R-Lineville), has said that he will sponsor a constitutional amendment that would require the Governor and Lieutenant Governor to be elected jointly. The Lieutenant Governor would then be relocated to the Capitol to serve more like a Vice President, except without presiding over the Senate as the Vice President does. The idea is that the Lieutenant Governor would help more with economic development and job recruitment. A similar bill was passed by the Alabama Senate last year but died in the House of Representatives.
Currently, one of the Lieutenant Governor’s main tasks is to oversee the proceedings of the Senate for the four months Alabama’s legislature is in session. With Kay Ivey now across the street in the Governor’s office, those duties have been transferred to Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh, who supports Dial’s bill. As he told Yellowhammer,
“This bill moves the Lt. Governor across the street to work hand-in-hand with the Governor to focus more on economic development, making the office a more effective position. By doing so, I believe we are better served with a Lt. Governor who’s hard at work everyday promoting Alabama economically,” Marsh said. “With 35 Members in the Senate, we shouldn’t ever need the tie-breaking vote of the Lt. Governor,” he added, “so my tendency is to support this bill.”
When asked about the budget of the Lt. Governor’s office and how it would be impacted by this move, Marsh said:
“I don’t know the exact figures but the budget for the Lt. Governor’s office is close to a million dollars a year. So I’d certainly think a portion of this could be folded into the Governor’s office budget, as I believe that budget could be more efficient,” Marsh stated.
Many of the Lt. Governor’s duties were stripped away by the Democrats in the 1990’s (the majority party at the time), who made the move to attenuate the powers of then-Lieutenant Governor Steve Windom, a Republican.
According to the National Lt. Governor’s Association, the Lt. Governor in Alabama now “has more than thirty statutory duties. These duties include serving as a member of more than 20 boards or entities and appointing 400 positions to approximately 167 boards and commissions. The state constitution says the lieutenant governor shall be president of the senate. The lieutenant governor has additional duties created by the state constitution, Governor’s executive order, legislative act, and the Rules of the Senate. For example, chairing the Alabama Job Creation & Military Stability Commission is a significant duty of the office, but that duty is established by legislative resolution rather than statute.”
Nevertheless, since the vacant Lt. Governor’s office will not be filled until at least next year, Dial is re-introducing this bill to shift the focus of the office to an economic development role, without powers in the Senate, while also ensuring that if a Governor were forced to step down, they would be replaced by a Lieutenant Governor of the same party.
Obviously, the 2018 candidates for Lieutenant Governor—State Rep. Will Ainsworth, Public Service Commission President Twinkle Cavanaugh, State Sen. Rusty Glover, and Alabama State Board of Education member Mary Scott Hunter—will be keeping an eye on this bill as it’s introduced to the legislature again this year.
When asked about the measure, Hunter told Yellowhammer:
I think it’s a good idea for the Governor to choose their running mate and for the Lt. Governor to have a more defined executive role. It makes the Governor and Lt. Governor a stronger team. It does make a lot of sense to have these two offices run and work as a team. I understand it wouldn’t take effect until 2022. So, I’m not sure it affects my race. I’m reading through it, asking questions, and look forward to learning more about it.