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The foundation of the lieutenant governor’s office in Hawaii can be determined by reviewing the Constitution of Hawaii. There, the outline of the state’s second-ranking office can be found in Article 5, Sections 2 and 4.

Article 5, Section 2 of the document outlines the qualifications one must have in order to serve as lieutenant governor (30 years old and 5 years a resident of Hawaii), how the office is elected (on a ticket with the governor), and the number of terms the lieutenant governor is limited to serving (two). Most critically, though, Section 2 outlines the duties that the Hawaiian lieutenant governor performs. “The lieutenant governor shall (italics added) perform such duties as may be provided by law.” Thus, it appears that the framers of the Hawaiian Constitution weren’t quite sure what exactly to do with the office, and left it to the governor to decide how to best utilize (or not, if they so chose) the lieutenant governor.  The legislature has tasked the office with two specific duties, which will be discussed in a future blog post.

Article 5, Section 4 outlines transfer of power, succession, and impeachment issues between the governor and lieutenant governor. First, when the governor is absent from the state or is unable to discharge their authority, “such powers and duties shall devolve upon the lieutenant governor.” And, such a devolving of power from the governor to the lieutenant governor for an extended period of time has happened once previously in Hawaii. In late 1973, then-Governor John Burns, stricken with cancer, officially stepped back from the office, thus designating Lieutenant Governor George Ariyoshi to serve as Acting Governor until his term expired at the end of 1974.

Further, this section of Article 5 explores briefly what is to be done when the lieutenant governor is either absent from the state or unable to discharge their authority. And, the framers of the document punted to the legislature the answer to this question, indicating that it should be left to state statute to determine the appropriate response to these dilemmas. Finally, if the lieutenant governor finds themselves in the politically unenviable position of being impeached, Section 5 is adamant that they are forbidden from exercising the power of their office until they are acquitted.

The next post in this blog will discuss how state statutes have approached the office of lieutenant governor in Hawaii.