2010-08-19 / Local & State

Changes Eyed For Pa. Lieutenant Governor’s Office

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) – The cost and relatively few duties accorded the Pennsylvania lieutenant governor’s office has some proposing changes, and one state lawmaker is even drafting a bill to abolish the office.

Taxpayers spend an average of $1.13 million a year on the office, although the lieutenant governor is only required to head a local government advisory board, sit on an emergency management panel only convened in the event of a crisis, review applications for pardons and preside over the Senate.

In seven states – Tennessee, West Virginia, Maine, New Hampshire, Wyoming, Oregon and Arizona – there is no lieutenant governor, with succession falling to another elected official.

Rep. Seth Grove, R-York, says Pennsylvania should join them, allowing succession to devolve to the Senate president pro tempore. His measure would start the constitutional amendment process, which requires passage by the Legislature in two sessions followed by approval by the voters.

The $1 million potential savings is “a drop in the bucket overall,’’ said Grove, “but it’s worth the conversation.’’

Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, who succeeded to the office following the November 2008 death of Catherine Baker Knoll, said that given Pennsylvania’s financial condition, the idea is one that should be discussed – along with the elimination of “a whole host of boards and commissions.’’

But he points out that New Jersey just created the office of lieutenant governor because citizens had become uncomfortable with succession rules that gave the Senate president extraordinary powers when a governor died or left office. From 2000 to 2004, three Senate presidents also ran the executive branch, one of them on two occasions.

Others in Pennsylvania say that rather than eliminating the position, it should be given greater constitutional duties, as is the case in many other states. Former county commissioner Tony Moscato, who runs the office for Scarnati, said he thinks a number of executive offices should be rolled into one and made the province of the lieutenant governor.

Still others find fault with the current system of electing the governor and lieutenant governor separately. G. Terry Madonna, a political analyst at Franklin & Marshall College, says the two should run as a team. He calls the current independent election process “a dangerous high-stakes game of political roulette.’’

“Typically voters know little about the candidates for lieutenant governor, and even less about what they would do if the big office were suddenly thrust upon them,’’ Madonna said.

One thing the lieutenant governor’s office has not generally been is a steppingstone, since only two lieutenant governors in Pennsylvania have gone on to win election to the governor’s office, one for just 19 days.

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