Saturday, July 18, 2009

About Illinois' Lt. Governorship...

Levi Moore who is the "statehouse examiner" at examiner.com talks about the position of Illinois Lt. Governor. It's up for election next year and currently it's vacant since our current Governor, Pat Quinn, ascended to the office of Governor upon the removal of Rod Blagojevich in January. Vacant because apparently there is no provision similar to the US Constitution's 25th Amendment to provide for succession to the Lt. Governorship.

I saw on Eric Zorn's blog in a recent post that there have been proposals to either eliminate the Lt. Gov. post or at the very least allow gubernatorial candidates to be able to select their running mates. You know almost similar to the process that a Presidential candidate make to select a running mate who will run with him as the Vice-Presidential nominee. Currently voters choose the ticket for both Gov. or Lt. Gov on a primary ballot and the winners of this primary become the Gubernatorial ticket in the general election.

Here's another Zorn post from this past May on this very subject. That is the arguments to eliminate this position were outlined, but one minor thing keeps Lt. Gov. post alive. This office and another non-essential office, Comptroller (the office that Sen. Roland Burris was elected to in the late 70s to become the first black to win election statewide in Illinois) or even Treasurer, are used as stepping stones. To create a minor-league of sorts for those who have aspirations for higher office in this state.

In Illinois, you might be considered a big deal if you run the offices at least of Secretary of State or Attorney General. While it was noted on Zorn's blog again that no one went from state Attorney General to Governor, I do know that two recent Governors, Jim Edgar and George Ryan, were elected directly from the office of Secretary of State. Both of those offices have significant staff and responsibilities.

BTW, the office is significant only that the Lt. Gov. is second in succession to the state Governorship when a Governor dies, incapacitated, or removed from office. There is some responsibility given to the office although these responsibilities may only be provided by the Governor himself (or herself) of course that is provided that these two individuals who had no choice since the voters essentially put them together have a decent working relationship.

Once upon a time before the enactment of the 1970 constitution of Illinois, Lt. Gov could actually preside over sessions of the state Senate. There wasn't always the position of Senate President unless you want to count the position of President Pro-Tempore. Remember the structure of government in most state matches somewhat loosely the structure of the federal government, especially as established in the US Constitution. Thus up until 1970 the Lt. Governor had a responsibility similar to that of the Vice President of the United States and the state Senate had their own President Pro-Tempore just like the US Senate.

Anyway, the structure of state government in Illinois is what it is today and there are those who advocate for the restructuring of offices or even how they are elected or still the elimination of that position. Perhaps it was a mistake to put both offices up for election in a primary and keep them together in a general election. Perhaps it was a mistake to remove the Lt. Governor's role as the presiding officer of the state Senate.

Still I wouldn't advocate for it's elimination. There are probably better more numerous aspects of government that can be cut that maybe a couple of statewide offices. Perhaps Cook County government could use some contraction in executive elected officials or there have been discussions of say consolidating school districts in the state.

Still, there is a virtue to having offices that may not have the importance of either Governor, Secretary of State or Attorney General that may allow an aspiring politician to move up in state politics. The minor-league system or bench that allows a very ambitious pol to make of their position what they will and not merely draw a paycheck. In doing so such a person hopefully will have the ability to advance themselves as a future candidate for much higher office.

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