The Lieutenant Governor of Colorado: Constitutional Duties


From a constitutional perspective, the Lieutenant Governor of Colorado is one the weakest second-ranking state executives in the nation. This is because the Colorado Constitution sets aside no specific duties for the office.

The office is acknowledged in Article I as being part of the executive branch of the State of Colorado, but that is it. Until the mid-1970’s, Colorado’s Lieutenant Governor also served in a legislative capacity, as President of the State Senate. So, currently, their power and duties are dependent upon the willingness of the Governor and the Legislature to grant them to the office.


Works Cited

State of Colorado. The Constitution of the State of Colorado. Denver, CO.


The Lieutenant Governor of Utah: Statutory Duties


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Utah’s Lieutenant Governor has a narrow, but critical range of duties. Specifically, Chapter 67, Title 1A, Section 2 of the Utah Code spells out the powers bestowed upon the office.

The primary power designated to this office is their duty as chief elections officer for the people of Utah. In this capacity, the Lieutenant Governor is responsible for carrying out all aspects of the election process: overseeing candidate filings, receiving contribution information, monitoring Political Action Committees (PACs) active in the state, determining residency for candidates, reporting election results, etc. In addition, any reference to a Secretary of State in the Utah Code is referring to the Lieutenant Governor.

Another important power designated to the Lieutenant Governor of Utah is their power overseeing all aspects of the annexation process for local government in the state. Any proposed boundary action impacting a local agency is overseen by the Lieutenant Governor.

A third duty of the office is their role to serve–at the pleasure of the Governor–as an official gubernatorial adviser, a liaison to the state legislature, or with the approval of the legislature, as chief of other state agencies.

In addition, the Lieutenant Governor may propose their own office budget for each fiscal year and send it to the legislature for approval, rather than rely on the Governor for an annual appropriation request.

Further, a fifth power provided to the Lieutenant Governor is their role as custodian of the Great Seal of Utah. The office ensures that the Great Seal is used in accordance with the approved process, and is not abused in any way.

Sixth, the Utah Lieutenant Governor commissions notary publics in the state, and is empowered to administer oaths of office to other public officers as well.

Finally, the Lieutenant Governor is formally designated as the Chair of the Utah Commission on Civic and Character Education, which is tasked with promoting civic involvement in schools and the community throughout Utah.

These grants of power to the office have allowed Utah’s Lieutenant Governor to carve out an important and independent base for the office in the administration of state government, and follows the path of lieutenant governorships created  in the 20th-century, which tend to be focused primarily on executive duties, with either a limited or no role for the office in the machinery of the state legislature.

Works Cited

State of Utah. Utah State Code, Chapter 67, Title 1A, Section 2. Salt Lake City.

“About Us.” The Utah Commission on Civic and Character Education. State of Utah. August 22, 2017.

The Lieutenant Governor of Utah: Constitutional Duties

The constitutional responsibilities of Utah’s lieutenant governor are general in nature, with no broad grant of any kind of authority. This is due to the fact that their lieutenant governor, with the creation of the office in 1975, assumed the statutory duties of Utah’s secretary of state, which are, as will be seen in another, future post, rather detailed.

Article 7, Section 14 of the Utah Constitution are where the three specific duties of Utah’s lieutenant governor can be found. This area was added to Utah Constitution in 1980, and have remained unchanged since then. They are:

  1. serve on all boards and commissions in lieu of the Governor whenever so designated by the Governor;
  2. perform such duties as may be delegated by the Governor; and
  3. perform other duties as may be provided by statute.

A cursory glance at these duties would leave one with the impression that Utah’s lieutenant governor is a very weak office. But, as noted above, the powers in this office are very detailed when Utah statutes are assessed.

Works Cited

Utah Constitutional Revision Commission. Utah State Constitution. Salt Lake City. 34.



The Lieutenant Governor of Utah: Origins of the Office


The Lieutenant Governor of Utah is a rather recent office, created in 1975 by the Utah State Legislature. House Bill 140 (HB 140) was the legislation that created the office. Until the Lieutenant Governor’s office was begun, the second-ranking office in Utah was the Secretary of State. With the passage of HB 140, the Secretary of State was appointed the first Lieutenant Governor. In 1976, the Utah Secretary of State’s office was formally abolished, with the duties of that office being transferred to the Lieutenant Governor.

Works Cited

Utah State Legislature. Laws of Utah 1975, Chapter 202. Salt Lake City, Utah, 913-914

Lieutenant Governor of Nevada: Statutory Executive Authority

The Lieutenant Governor of Nevada possesses what could best be described as very weak executive branch authority. Formally, Nevada’s Lieutenant Governor sits as a member of only three state commissions. Those three commissions are the Governor’s Board on Economic Development (Nevada Chapter 231.033), the Department of Transportation Board of Directors (Nevada Chapter 408.106), and the Nevada Commission on Tourism (Nevada Chapter 231.160).

None of those three statutory assignments provide for the Lieutenant Governor to serve as chair, and any additional committee/board/commission assignments they receive are purely at the will of the appointing authority.

Nevada’s Lieutenant Governor: Constitutional Grant of Legislative Authority

This blog entry will address and briefly assess the legislative power of Nevada’s Lieutenant Governor.

Article 5, Section 17 of the Nevada Constitution addresses the office of lieutenant governor. According to this document, the lieutenant governor is designated as President of the Nevada State Senate, but possesses only a casting (tie-breaking) vote within that body. How, then, is that delegation of power actually translated into the daily operations of Nevada’s upper house? To add another dilemma, the Nevada Constitution, in the section of the document devoted entirely to the legislative branch, permits each chamber to create their own operating rules, which could allow for severe restriction of the lieutenant governor’s authority as president of the upper house.

However, according to the rule book governing the Nevada Senate, the Senate President has broad authority, including addressing points of order, document signing power, and they control what is termed as the “general direction” of the chamber. And, rather significantly, the lieutenant governor does, unlike in some other states, actually spend significant amounts of time presiding over sessions of the State Senate. An assessment of the 2015 daily journal history of the Nevada Senate confirms a continual presence of the lieutenant governor acting in this legislative role. Thus, the Lieutenant Governor of Nevada does possess and currently exercises legislative branch authority.

The next entry in this blog will address the statutory duties of the Lieutenant Governor of Nevada.

Works Cited

State of Nevada. Constitution of Nevada. Article 5, Section 17.

Nevada State Senate. Senate Standing Rules. Article 1: Officers and Employees-Rule 1.

Nevada Legislature. Journals. 78th (2015) Session Journals.


California’s Lieutenant Governor: 2003 Gubernatorial Recall Duties



California State Capitol

The recall of a sitting governor in California has occurred once since World War II, in 2003 when incumbent chief executive Gray Davis was successfully removed. The California Constitution, through Article II, Section 17 assigns the task of overseeing the recall of a sitting governor to the lieutenant governor. Specifically, that section states, “if a recall of the Governor or Secretary of State is initiated, the recall duties of that office shall be performed by the Lieutenant Governor or Controller, respectively” (California Secretary of State, 2014). Over time, that rather broad mission has narrowed to one task: setting the date for the recall election. And, what will be briefly reviewed here is how that process was carried out by Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante during the recall of Governor Davis in 2003.

The dilemma faced by Cruz Bustamante in 2003 was one familiar to those who face a two-term limit in California’s plural executive constitutional offices. Bustamante was planning to use his platform as the state’s second-in-command to run for governor in 2006 when Davis was termed out, a long-term timetable that, with the fast-moving recall of Davis in motion throughout early 2003, was left in shambles. And, when Kevin Shelly, the Secretary of State, verified that enough signatures had been gathered in July of 2003, it fell upon Bustamante to set the date of the recall election, a task he tried for a short time avoid making.

First, Bustamante tried to sidestep the issue, by indicating he would ask either the state supreme court or a rather vague state body, the Commission on the Governorship, to rule on the issue about whether to call an election. (Broder 2003). But, this commission’s mission is directly related to currently existing vacancies in that office, not the issue of whether or not to call a special election to potentially replace a sitting chief executive. (California Government Code, 2015…Division 3, Part 2, Chapter 1, Sections 12070-12076).

Proponents of the recall were very vocal in their insistence that an election had to be called, and not punted to an obscure state commission indirectly related to the decision Bustamante was faced with making. And election law experts were almost unanimously opposed to his thinking about deferring the decision. Taking these awkward steps appeared to make the lieutenant governor look weak and indecisive, at the very time the office needed to project an image of efficient executive decision-making. After a few days of wavering and obfuscating—apparently as he weighed his own chances of succeeding to  the governorship—Bustamante relented and set the date for the recall election (Gonzales 2003).

The lieutenant governor’s office is not often in the spotlight and is rarely forced to lead in a time of political crisis in the state. The hesitation of Bustamante at a time when a simple decision was needed may have had two ramifications. First, it may have reinforced a political stereotype that those who hold this office may not be ready when forced to lead. Second, his reluctance to lead in this situation may have played a part when Bustamante decided a few weeks later to run unsuccessfully for Governor in the recall.


Broder, John. “Questions and Assumptions Surround the Recall Process. New York Times. July 24, 2003, A14.

California Government Code. Division 3, Part 2, Chapter 1, Sections 12070-12076.

Gonzales, Richard. “Analysis: Recall election in California to be held in October.” Morning Edition. National Public Radio, July 25, 2003.

California’s Lieutenant Governor, October 1974-January 1975: John Harmer’s Brief Stay


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With the departure of Ed Reinecke as California’s lieutenant governor, Governor Ronald Reagan was, for the second time during his term, facing the prospect of appointing yet another second-in-command. This time, though, it was an entirely different situation than the one facing Reagan in January of 1969 during his first term in office.

Now, Reagan was a lame-duck, with about 90 days left on both his term and that of the lieutenant governor’s. So, he was confronted with two options as he pondered whom to appoint. He could name a caretaker to the office, someone who would respectfully manage the office, serve quietly on the 15 or so boards and commissions that came along with the job, and hand over the reigns to a successor in January of 1975. Or, he could designate someone whom, if appointed, could possibly move the GOP forward politically in the November, 1974 election. From the comments that Reagan made when he announced his decision, it appears as if he was to some degree torn about the choice.

When he announced his selection, Reagan stated that he “gave up” on the idea of a caretaker lieutenant governor serving for 90 days (Bergholz, 1974), which indicates that he appeared to have at least given it some serious thought. But, after weighing the possibilities, and being at his core a loyal Republican who wanted to see his party succeed at the polls in November despite the enormous trouble generated by the Watergate scandal, Reagan appointed the person who he felt could best make this occur.

And, who was his choice? None other than the 1974 GOP nominee for the office, State Senator John Harmer of Glendale. Harmer was only 40 years old and was considered one of the most conservative members of California’s upper house. And, Harmer acknowledged that he was taking a huge political risk in giving up a safe seat in the middle of his term for a position that might well only last until January 3, 1975 (Skelton, 1974).

Harmer wasted no time in being sworn in, taking office on October 5, 1975, and barely a week later, in his capacity as both Acting Governor and Chair of the California Economic Development Commission, hosted a statewide summit meeting to discuss inflation. Harmer defended his actions, indicating that he was acting on direction from Reagan, who was in turn responding to President Gerald Ford’s recent national address about the issue. And, he indicated that there would be a follow-up statewide inflation discussion on October 30, 1974, via the California Energy Council, another body over which Harmer presided (Gillam 1974).

With the November election looming, Harmer attempted to do as much as he could via official channels to boost his candidacy.  In addition to receiving publicity for serving as Acting Governor in Reagan’s absence and hosting discussions about critical issues, Harmer also was named by Reagan on October 30, 1974 to coordinate a federal jobs effort, a role that had also been coordinated by his predecessor in office, Ed Reinecke (Los Angeles Times 1974).  However, Reagan and Harmer’s efforts to boost his candidacy for a full term in his own right were for naught, with Democratic nominee State Senator Mervyn Dymally edging Harmer by about 3 percentage points on Election Day.

Perhaps if there had not been so much foot-dragging by influential GOP leaders such as Reagan, Attorney General Evelle Younger, and party gubernatorial nominee Controller Houston Flournoy during the time it took to extricate Reinecke from office, Harmer might have succeeded in winning the job outright; after all, even though his title as Lieutenant Governor did not make it to the ballots (which had already been printed) he lost by only a very narrow margin to Senator Dymally. Reagan’s decision to appoint the GOP nominee for the job as the new second-in-command, rather than an office caretaker, is understandable as well, knowing Reagan’s loyalty to the Republican Party.

When he made the Harmer appointment, Reagan may have considered the events of 1970, when he was faced with a similar decision to fill a vacancy, then in the office of California Secretary of State, when the incumbent GOP officeholder, Frank Jordan, passed away. At that time Reagan appointed a caretaker, H.P. Sullivan, who indeed dutifully served out the 9 or so months remaining on Jordan’s term, but he saw the office taken by Democrat Edmund G. Brown, Jr. in the 1970 general election. He may have wanted to avoid, if he could, a similar scenario from occurring with the lieutenant governor’s post. In the end, John Harmer’s 90 days or so in office were a unique footnote in California political history, and led to no greater electoral success for him.


Bergholz, Richard. “Reagan Will Name Harmer Today to Replace Reinecke. ” Los Angeles Times, October 3, 1974, A1.

Gillam, Jerry. “Harmer Calls Summit Talk on Inflation.” Los Angeles Times, October 12, 1974, pg. 23.

Los Angeles Times. “Harmer to Coordinate Job Program in State.” Los Angeles Times, October 30, 1974, C5.

Skelton, George. “Reagan Names Harmer, Stirs Race for No. 2 Job.” Los Angeles Times, October 4, 1974, A3.

California’s Lt. Governor, July 1974-October 1974: Reinecke’s Long Goodbye


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In July of 1974, incumbent Lieutenant Governor Ed Reinecke was found guilty on one felony count of  perjury stemming from his involvement in the ITT Scandal. All indications were that, having been convicted of a felony, Reinecke would resign from office rather quickly. But, even though the California Government Code indicated that conviction of a felony disqualified state elected officials from holding office, state Attorney General Evelle Younger clouded the matter, indicating that it was only upon sentencing–after the appeals process had been exhausted–that Reinecke would be disqualified; and for his part, Reinecke didn’t appear to be in a hurry to depart (Jones 1974). Thus began a 2-month resignation drama.

At first, fellow Republicans seemed reticent to criticize him at all. Younger appeared to be trying to find a legal avenue for Reinecke to stay in office until his term expired in January of 1975, and GOP gubernatorial nominee, State Controller Houston Flournoy, declined to call for Reinecke’s resignation, and even appeared to feel sorry for Reinecke (Fairbanks 1974). Indeed, the most important GOP leader in the state, Governor Ronald Reagan, had said nothing publicly about the matter since Reinecke’s conviction.

Finally, nearly a week after the conviction, Younger released a report stating that only when sentenced would the state Government Code section disqualifying Reinecke from office kick in, but he suggested that the lieutenant governor should resign immediately (Endicott 1974). The very next day, Reagan finally spoke out about the issue, indicating he felt Reinecke should resign immediately, and that he would tell the lieutenant governor exactly that in a face-to-face meeting the next week, and was reviewing his short-term schedule to avoid leaving the state; again, Reinecke abjectly refused to leave, even with Reagan’s admonishment (Bergholz 1974).

Then, abruptly, Reagan apparently couldn’t tell Reinecke to quit in their face-to-face meeting, and stopped discussing the matter publicly (Fairbanks and Skelton 1974). For his part, Reinecke resumed his duties as the appeal process kicked off, even serving as Acting Governor several times, despite what Reagan had indicated (UPI 1974). Finally, on October 2, 1974, Reinecke submitted his resignation, which took effect at the same time he was receiving his sentence for the perjury conviction, having finally exhausted his available appeals. The next step in the process was for Reagan to name another lieutenant governor–the third in his tenure–to serve until January of 1975 (UPI 1974).

In hindsight, it is abundantly clear that GOP leadership in California should have early and forcefully called for Reinecke’s resignation, as the state Government Code was clear in its language about the disqualification of those state officeholders convicted of a felony. Attorney General Younger and Houston Flournoy, as both the state controller and the GOP gubernatorial nominee both played key roles–which they rejected–to potentially force the matter early on. However, Governor Reagan’s initial forceful public comments about Reinecke, juxtaposed with his apparently timid encounter with the lieutenant governor and subsequent hands-off approach to the dilemma, are especially open for criticism. Reagan, throughout his term in Sacramento, displayed outrage and no patience at student protesters who flagrantly violated the law. But, when it came to a fellow Republican officeholder who stayed on despite being convicted by a federal jury, apparently couldn’t bring himself to remain consistent in his zero tolerance for lawbreakers policy.


Bergholz, Richard. “Reinecke Should Quit, Reagan Says; Suggestion Rejected.” Los Angeles Times, August 3, 1974, A1.

Endicott, William. “Reinecke Should Leave Office Immediately, Younger Suggests.” Los Angeles Times. August 2, 1974, A1.

Fairbanks, Robert. “Flournoy Declines Judgement on Reinecke Staying in Office.” Los Angeles Times. July 31, 1974, A3.

Fairbanks, Robert, and Skelton, George. “Reagan Withdrew Resignation Call, Reinecke Reports.” Los Angeles Times. August 6, 1974, A3.

Jones, Jack. “Reinecke Says He Won’t Quit Unless Forced to by Law.” Los Angeles Times. July 30, 1974, A1.

United Press International. “Reagan Flies to Maryland Picnic.” Los Angeles Times. August 24, 1974, A12.

United Press International. “Reagan Names Sen. Harmer to Serve Rest of Reinecke’s Term.” Los Angeles Times, October 3, 1974, A3.

California’s Lieutenant Governor: Running For Governor


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Gavin Newsom, the current Lieutenant Governor of California, recently announced that he will be running for the top job of Governor in 2018. But, history shows us that since 1939, when most of the powers of the second-highest office in the state were removed, the odds of them being elected to govern it are quite small. Since then, only one lieutenant governor–Gray Davis, in 1998–has been elected to the top spot.

It’s not that others haven’t tried. In 1982, incumbent LG Mike Curb ran for governor against Attorney General George Deukmejian, but was defeated in the primary election. And, in 2003, then-LG Cruz Bustamante ran in the recall election of Governor Davis, but lost. So, the road is certainly steep–but not impossible–for Mr. Newsom.