RLC-GA Chairman Travis Bowden on the Role of the Lieutenant Governor

May 13, 2011 9:09 am

by Nathan · 5 comments

My friend and colleague Travis Bowden, Chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus of Georgia, has written an op-ed about the office of lieutenant governor and the role it plays:

At last month’s 7th Congressional District Convention, a resolution was proposed that would demote the Lieutenant Governor of Georgia by stripping him of the title of President of the Senate. I respectfully disagree with this plan and the ideas behind it.

If the Lieutenant Governor were to be demoted in such a way, then the constitution would be needlessly violated. The resolution brought up at the convention says that the Lieutenant Governor is a member of Georgia’s Executive Branch, and therefore he should not be able to govern any part of Georgia’s Legislative Branch, in this case, the Georgia State Senate.

However, if one were to consult Article 3, Section 3, of the Georgia Constitution, the first paragraph says that the presiding officer of the Georgia State Senate shall be the “President of the Senate”. Article 5, Section 1 of the Constitution then says that the Governor and Lieutenant Governor are elected at the same time for the same term of office, and that the Lieutenant Governor is the “President of the Senate”. Finally, it says that the Lieutenant Governor only has Executive Branch duties when “prescribed by the Governor”.

Georgia’s Lieutenant Governor is a government officer who serves in the Legislative Branch as President of the Senate and can legally work for the Governor on certain matters with the Governor’s blessing. The 1971 Georgia Supreme Court case Henderson V. Maddox explains that the Lieutenant Governor does not receive Executive powers in his own right unless the sitting Governor dies or resigns. The powers of the Chief Executive would then devolve upon the Lieutenant Governor, who would resign his office then ascend to the role of Governor.

If the Lieutenant Governor is removed as the President of the Senate, only then would he become part of the Executive Branch and would serve no formal function other than acting as an understudy for the Governor. The Senate would then elect its own leader and voters would have absolutely no say in the matter, as was the case before the position of Lieutenant Governor was created. For Georgia to demote our Lieutenant Governor without just cause is a step backwards when the state should be moving forward.

I realize supporters of this plan may disagree with me, but I must go with my conscience on the matter. As the Chairman of the Georgia Chapter of the Republican Liberty Caucus, I took an oath to fight for the conscience of the Party. I do not believe it is constitutional or fair to the 1.4 million voters who reelected our Lieutenant Governor to be disenfranchised in this way. If there is a problem with the Lieutenant Governor or his office, this resolution is not the way to remove him from the process.

It’s my fondest wish that the aggressive infighting inside government and political circles would end peacefully. There are more pressing concerns ahead of us as Georgians, Democrat and Republican alike. I hope that Georgians can one day meet our challenges together as friends.

grumpymoderate May 13, 2011 at 10:40 am

I totally agree. Don’t violate the state constitution because you have issues with the current office holder. If you truly had issues with Cagle, you shouldn’t have voted for him!

Doug Deal May 13, 2011 at 10:44 am

Travis and I discussed this thoroughly a while back. As a member of the RLC Board, I back him completely.

Calypso May 13, 2011 at 11:20 am

Yeah, same here. This is akin to Erick trying to get Chambliss out by having the party delegates select the candidate without letting voters decide in a primary. All this rigamarole to get one guy.

JUST RUN SOMEBODY CREDIBLE AGAINST THEM IN THE PRIMARY!

benevolus May 13, 2011 at 11:23 am

“Finally, it says that the Lieutenant Governor only has Executive Branch duties when “prescribed by the Governor”.”

For the record, the actual language is: “The Lieutenant Governor shall be the President of the Senate and shall have such executive duties as prescribed by the Governor and as may be prescribed by law not inconsistent with the powers of the Governor or other provisions of this Constitution.”

Stacy Jones May 13, 2011 at 6:12 pm

Paging Beth Merkleson. I heard, if her mother was better, she was going to show up in Macon and set some people straight.

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