Thursday, November 26, 2009


Does California Need a Lieutenant Governor?

You'd think not. Six years ago in the Recall Election against Gray Davis, the Democratic Attorney General of the State, Bill Lockyear, opined that the Lieutenant Governor would not automatically become the new governor is the governor were to be removed or recalled from office. Hence, the recall election would also include candidates for the governorship which would be vacant if Gray Davis were recalled. Mr. Lockyear had his reasons for not wanting the Lieutenant Governor at the time, Cruz Bustamante, to succeed to the governorship. In keeping Mr. Bustamante from succeeding Gray Davis, Mr Lockyear established a precedent. I think it was a bad precedent.

The language of the recall law stipulates that the recall election shall include names of candidates to replace the official being recalled if appropriate. In most recall elections it would be appropriate because most elective offices in the State do not have a successor in waiting. However, the office of Governor is unique in that there is a designated elected official to assume the governorship if for any reason (including impeachment or recall!) the existing governor can not perform the duties of the office or is removed from office. Mr. Lockyear's precedent has changed the law.

Since Mr. Garamendi has resigned as Lieutenant Governor to assume his position as a Representative, there is talk about whether Mr. Schwarzenegger should appoint a replacement. His chosen replacement is a State Senator, Mr. Abel Maldonado. If Mr. Maldonado is confirmed as the new Lieutenant Governor, the vacant State Senate seat will have to be filled by a special election that will cost, say, two million dollars. Next year Mr. Maldonado would have to run for Lieutenant Governor if he wants to continue in the office.

Why do we need a Lieutenant Governor? In 1850, when California became a State, it made sense to designate someone to act as governor while the governor was out of the State and therefore not in rapid communication with the legislature and other State officials. The invention of the telephone, radio, cell phones, internet, and the like have removed that reason for having a temporary replacement governor.

I say, let's do away with the office, along with the 2/3 vote in the Legislature for taxes and budgets.

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