The NCSL Blog

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By Doug Farquhar

Since Kay Ivey took over as Alabama governor after Robert Bentley stepped down, the state hasn’t had a lieutenant governor. The state Senate considered legislation that would limit lieutenant governor duties to only succeeding the governor if that office is vacated.

Alabama will get a new lieutenant governor this year. Three Republicans are vying for the office in the June 5 runoff. Public Service Commission President Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh speaks March 10, 2018, at the Mid-Alabama Republican Club Lieutenant Governor's candidates forum at Vestavia Hills Public Library. Behind her, seated, are State Rep. Will Ainsworth, left, and State Sen. Rusty Glover, right. Democrat Will Boyd is also running for the office.Senate Bill 88 failed last week. It proposed to strip the office of its legislative role, which includes presiding over the state Senate.

The bill sought to amend the state constitution eliminating the responsibilities of the lieutenant governor to preside over the Senate and vest the powers of the office with the president of the Senate. Members of the Senate would elect the Senate president and president pro tempore. The lieutenant governor would have no say.

"The office of lieutenant governor is designed to preside over the Senate, and be elevated to office of governor if there's a vacancy,” Ivey told AL.com. “The lieutenant governor needs to be well-informed about what's going on in the Legislature. The office makes many appointments to boards and commissions."

The office once had substantial powers. But over the years those powers have waned.

"If you look at the nation as a whole, the role of lieutenant governor in Alabama had been a very strong role in government," added former Lieutenant Governor George McMillan, in office from 1979-83. "The state is better served to have a lieutenant governor who is elected independently, who presides over the Senate, who makes committee assignments and assigns legislation to the appropriate committees."

Former Governor Don Siegelman was instrumental in curtailing the powers of the lieutenant governor, but since has had a change of heart. "I would like to see the powers revert back to the lieutenant governor," Siegelman said in the AL.com story.

The bill would have made the office mostly ceremonial. Ivey found it alarming that there was an effort in the Senate to strip power even further from the lieutenant governor's office as it lays dormant. She would like the former powers taken from the office be fully reinstated.

"None of those powers have been restored," Ivey said. "They've neutered the position as much as they could. They're trying to take away the power of the lieutenant governor."

Even if the bill had passed the Senate, it still would have required the Ivey’s signature and been subject to a vote by the public.

Doug Farquhar is NCSL's liaison to the Alabama Legislature and the program director for the Environmental Health Program.

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About the NCSL Blog

This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.