By William Patrick | Florida Watchdog
TALLAHASSEE — Just how important is the lieutenant governor position?
Florida has been without one for more than five months, and so far, no one’s really noticed.
That’s mainly because the office, while prestigious, is bereft of actual state business. The Florida Constitution outlines the post, but doesn’t provide any express duties.
But that does not mean the position is without merit, according to Robert Sanchez, policy director for the James Madison Institute and former Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial writer for the Miami Herald.
“The usefulness of Florida’s lieutenant governor depends upon the assignments provided by the governor, “ Sanchez told Florida Watchdog.
“Gov. Lawton Chiles’ lieutenant governor, Buddy MacKay, fulfilled a series of important ad hoc assignments. Likewise Gov. Jeb Bush’s lieutenant governor, Frank Brogan. Other lieutenant governors have had less to do, but that’s the fault of the governors they served, not the lieutenant governors themselves,” he said.
Since former Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll resigned March 13, a day after being questioned by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement about her association with aveterans nonprofit, Gov. Rick Scott has been content to go it alone. It’s plausible many Floridians haven’t even noticed.
Carroll’s vacancy has saved taxpayers more than five months of her $124,851 annual salary, the ninth highest in the country. The office also came with a $510,000 annual budget and a $100,00- a-year chief of staff, according to the New York Times.
Five states — Arizona, Maine, New Hampshire, Oregon and Wyoming — don’t even have second-in-commands.
New Jersey and West Virginia do, officially, but the positions are ancillary titles given to the Garden State’s secretary of state and West Virginia’s state Senate president.
In an email, Sanchez said, “Sometimes the office also fills a political purpose as the person who secures a party’s nomination for governor may then choose a running mate whose presence helps balance the ticket – whether ideologically or geographically,” Sanchez said. “The winner could even choose one of the party primary’s also-rans as a way of unifying the party for the general election.”
By law, Scott must appoint a lieutenant governor to serve the remainder of Carroll’s term. But he can do that any time between now and November. If something happens to Scott before a lieutenant governor is named and he is unable to perform his duties as governor, Attorney General Pam Bondi is next in line.
But for now, the lights are off in the lieutenant governor’s office.
“There is potential for this office. Whether it’s worth the price is a debate for another day,” Sanchez said.