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Lawmakers, governor clash on lieutenant governor proposal

MGN Online

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey is clashing with some lawmakers over a proposal to significantly alter the duties of lieutenant governor, the office she once held.

Posted: Jan. 21, 2018 11:58 PM
Updated: Jan. 21, 2018 11:58 PM

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey is clashing with some lawmakers over a proposal to significantly alter the duties of lieutenant governor, the office she once held.

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Sen. Gerald Dial, R-Lineville, has proposed legislation that would strip the lieutenant governor of any legislative duties so the person no longer presides over the Alabama Senate. The "sole duty" of the post, under Dial's proposal, would be to assist the governor as requested and succeed in the event of the governor's death, removal or resignation.

Currently, the lieutenant governor presides over the Alabama Senate — casting a vote only in case of a tie — and makes appointments to numerous state boards, including the Alabama Ethics Commission. Under Dial's proposal, senators would elect a president from their ranks who would take over those duties, including the appointments.

"It's a job that does not require hardly any work at all and it could be better used if the people are going to fund it," Dial said of the job of lieutenant governor.

Dial said he envisions the position acting something like a vice-governor, assisting the governor with functions like ribbon cuttings and industrial development. However, Ivey, who had been lieutenant governor but was moved into the governor's post last year by the resignation of then-Gov. Robert Bentley, spoke out against the proposal in her first State of the State address.

Ivey said she benefited from her time in the Alabama Legislature because it gave her experience with legislation she later signed into law.

"The smooth transition of government, brought me full circle - from the legislative to the executive - and I am better able to lead and govern because of it. I support having a lieutenant governor who presides over the Senate. Our current order of succession serves the state well. I know this firsthand, having experienced it. I strongly support our current order of succession," Ivey said in her speech.

There is currently no lieutenant governor in the state. Dial said the Senate has run smoothly without one as Senate President Pro Tempore Del Marsh, or whoever he designates, presides. Dial said he thinks it is a better approach to have senators elect a leader, because they could come back and remove the person.

"Same as the House of Representatives. The House elects a speaker. If they don't like them, they elect another one," Dial said.

The job of lieutenant governor in the 1970s through 1990s had grown to be one of the most influential in state government - wielding great influence over the flow of legislation under the Senate's then operating rules.

The decline began in 1998 after the first Republican was elected to preside over the then-Democrat-dominated Senate. Senators opted not to give the power back even as both the Senate and lieutenant governorship both shifted to GOP control.

Dial's legislation is a proposed amendment to the Alabama Constitution. Alabama voters would have to approve the measure and Ivey would have no power to veto it.

Alabama Senate Secretary Pat Harris said people point to advantages of both approaches.

"The pros of a statewide elected person who presides over the body - supposedly, they would make independent decisions on recognizing people and of course they only vote in case of a tie. To some people, that's an advantage. The argument on the other side is that like the House of Representatives, is that we should be able to elect a member of our own body that supervises us, and if we don't like that person, or if that person has a problem, we can remove them," Harris said.

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