“Some have said that Louisiana does not need a Lieutenant Governor’s Office. In light of the budget crisis that our state is facing, what apologetics could you make tonight to validate the Lieutenant Governor’s office in the state of Louisiana?”
The four candidates in attendance muttered the standard time-worn lines that the job is “a heartbeat away from the Governor,” and lamented that a number of state agencies would go to hell in a hand basket if the Lite Guv’s office were eliminated. Ah, the melodrama of Louisiana political campaigns. Let’s be realistic. If the office of Lt. Governor were eliminated, nary a voter would see the slightest difference.
Under the present Louisiana constitution, the Lt. Governor has no assigned duties. The person holding the office is at the beck and call of the governor. When I served as Secretary of State back in the 1980’s, I would often make fun of my friend, Lt. Governor Bobby Friedman. If he were in attendance at a gathering, I would tell the crowd that I knew what the Lt. Governor did all day. “As best I can figure, the Lt. Governor gets up in the morning to see if per chance the governor died the night before. If not, he’s free go fishing, play bouree, or do whatever he wants.”
Friedman would always feign laughter, but the point was made. The job has no constitutional duties. The legislature has put the Lt. Governor in charge of the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, but do we really need to elect a bureaucrat to see that the trash is picked up in state parks and museum pictures are dusted off?
Seven states across the country do not even have a lieutenant governor, and Tennessee and West Virginia just give the title to the president of the State Senate. In 21 states, the governor and the lt. governor run as a team on the same ticket, similar to how national elections for president and vice president are selected. In fact, only 17 states have entirely separate elections for governor and lt. governor.
Having the two offices run as a ticket actually makes pretty good sense. The governor would then have a lt. governor of his or her selection, and would be able to assign duties to a colleague well trusted to work together as a team effort.
Quite frankly, several other statewide offices could also be appointed by the governor as is done in a number of states. I held two such offices that could well go on the chopping block. The Secretary of State is an appointed position in 12 states and three more don’t even have the office that some refer to as a “high end or glorified clerk of court.” The Louisiana constitution requires that the Secretary of State be the keeper of the “Great Seal of Louisiana.” I looked for the Seal during my entire 8 years in office, but never found it.
And how about the office of Louisiana Insurance Commissioner? Would you believe there are only 11 insurance commissioners elected in the entire country? Commissioners spend a good part of their time raising campaign dollars from the very people they are supposed to regulate. Is this the best way to assure policyholders of reasonable insurance rates?
And then there is the Agriculture Commissioner. Twelve states select, while 38 states appoint. It must make Louisianans more at ease to know that some politician is checking up on the veggies and milk they consume. There’s a move by a number of education groups to elect the Superintendent of Education. Oh great! Let’s put a politician in charge to screw up the education of our kids even more. Why not just elect ‘em all right down to dogcatchers and trash haulers, right?
Pastor Richerson makes a good point. In a time of major fiscal crisis caused by inept political oversight, does Louisiana need to elect more positions than any other state in the nation? Some consolidation would seem to make good sense for a state on the verge of going broke. But are any public officials listening?
Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide. You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownusa.com. You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownusa.com.