It's popular, but not correctThere was much talk in the press and on the State blogosphere last week about the proposed amendment to the Tennessee Constitution which passed the Senate that would create the position of an elected Lieutenant Governor. It has been said by proponents of this legislation that the Leutenant Governor's office should be one chosen by the people and not tied to the State Senate, as it is now. Many Tennessee Republicans have been on the bandwagon of having an elected Lieutenant Governor for some time, having endured the pain of John Wilder being chosen by the Senate as Speaker and Leutenant Governor for entirely too many times-apparently well beyond the best of his cognative abilities. What's more, the Rosalind Kurita proposal also creates an elected Secretary of State.
While I understand the desire of many Republicans to avoid a repeat of 2005, when Wilder was chosen and clearly should not have been, I fear that my fellow Republicans are failing to see the long term cause-and-effect of this proposal. They desire a short-term fix to a more complicated problem. I don't doubt that Senator Kurita's intentions are good, and so are the intentions of Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey (who is essentially backing her on this), but those who favor this proposal are thinking of something that would be extremely popular that makes no good conservative sense whatsoever.
If we already had an elected Lieutenant Governor and Secretary of State and the Legislature were seriously considering removing those posts from the elected rolls, that is one thing. In this case, the General Assembly would be creating two new elected offices. In the case of the Lt. Governor, he would get the same car, driver, and security detail that the Speakers of the two Houses of the Legislature would get-and rightfully so. He or she would also be drawing an additional salary, whereas under the current system Tennesseans pay the Lieutenant Governor and Speaker of the Senate one salary because those offices are one-in-the-same. The Lt. Governor and Speaker, being the same person, also has but one car and driver and is very accessable to the people. Visit the Capitol and you can probably bump into your Lieutenant Governor. Creating a new office would likely end both that accessability and cost efficiency for the Lt. Governor.
Proponents of the measure also say that the "succession crisis" needs to be resolved and that this amendment would solve it. News flash: There is no succession crisis. Tennessee has a perfectly legitimate and workable line of succession if the Governor should resign, pass on, or be unable to perform the duties of his or her office. If any of those unfortunate events were to occur, the Lieutenant Governor (and Speaker of the Senate) would become Governor-period. Were that ever to occur, the Senate would simply select from its ranks another Speaker, and thus a new Lieutenant Governor. The only reason there was ever a "crisis" before is because Senators chose John Wilder as Speaker well past his prime. Blame the Senate for that, for it was they who collectively chose to create a crisis where none has previously existed. The Senate could remedy that in several ways, and one would be to amend the rules to limit the number of session of the legislature in which a member could sit as Speaker and Lt. Governor.
While well-meaning, this proposal would create new offices, more salaries, and more State bureaucracy where it need not exist. I may be going against my party on this one, but this isn't a fiscally sound or constitutionally responsible idea. This may be the only time you will ever see these words on this weblog as they pertain to the Democratic-led House: The House should block this legislation from the Senate.