By Terri Jo Neff |
Voters would have the chance in November to approve adding a Lieutenant Governor position to the slate of Arizona’s executive officers if a bill introduced by Sen. J.D. Mesnard is signed into law.
Senate Bill 1255 provides the framework for adding a new state executive officer in the Arizona Constitution so that Arizonans could jointly elect a Lt. Governor with the Governor, just as Americans vote for a slate of President and Vice-President. The bill would also change who takes over if the Office of Governor becomes vacant.
Currently, the Arizona Secretary of State (SOS) ascends to the Governor’s Office in the event of a vacancy due to death, permanent disability, resignation, or removal. This has prompted past concerns with whether a SOS -whose myriad duties include registering trademarks, managing the state archives, and serving as the state’s Chief Election Officer- was suited for the demands of a state governor.
Mesnard (R-LD17) is in his second term as state senator after previously serving eight years in the State House of Representatives. He says that while SOS is an important office, “there is very little about the office that prepares you to be governor,” he told KFYI’s James T. Harris on Monday.
He also noted instances in recent years when the SOS who replaced an outgoing Governor was not of the same party. This can lead to “a pretty radical shift” in policy, Mesnard noted.
Such uncertainty and turmoil would be avoided if each nominee for Governor names a Lt. Governor to run on the ticket together. It would ensure voters get what they ask for when they vote, he added. “There would be a lot more continuity, a lot more consistency,” Mesnard told Harris.
But Mesnard is not interested in simply creating a new state government office.
SB1255 would require the Lt. Governor to serve as the director of the Arizona Department of Administration (ADOA), which is the administrative and business operations hub of state government and its various agencies.
“The Department of Administration is plugged into all the different areas of the executive branch, everything from HR to regulation to payroll,” Mesnard said Monday, making it an ideal “training ground” for someone to ascend to the Governor’s Office.
The bill co-sponsored by Sen. Sean Bowie (D-LD18) cleared the Senate’s Government Committee last week on a bipartisan vote. It received a “proper for consideration” pass from the Senate Rules Committee on Wednesday and is now waiting to be scheduled for a third reading.
In the meantime, Mesnard has introduced a companion Senate Concurrent Resolution (SCR1024) which would put the proposed change to the Arizona Constitution in the hands of voters in November 2022. If approved by voters, the new Lt. Governor position would be included on the November 2026 state election.