Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Lieutenant Governor

The Office of Lieutenant Governor is part of the executive branch. The Lieutenant Governor serves as acting governor when the Governor is out of the state or incapacitated, and is the first in the line of succession should the Governor be unable to perform his or her duties.

The Lieutenant Governor's primary powers lie in the office's authority and influence in the legislature as President of the Texas Senate. The Lieutenant Governor serving as President of the Texas Senate appoints the committees of the Senate and assigns bills to specific Senate committees, a considerable power since committees generally control governmental policy legislation.

The Lieutenant Governor also casts the deciding vote in the Senate in case of a tie vote, and serves as chairman of the Legislative Budget Board and the Legislative Council. He or she is vice-chairman of the Legislative Audit Committee and the Legislative Education Board, and when the Legislative Redistricting Board convenes (if the legislature is unable to approve a redistricting plan for both houses), the Lieutenant Governor serves as one of the five members. These official roles, coupled with the legislative influence of the office, make the Texas Lieutenant Governorship significantly more powerful from Lieutenant Governors in most other states.

The Lieutenant Governor has exerted growing influence in lawmaking and in administration and public policy since World War II. This may result partly from two changes to the office over the course of the 20th century.

First, the length of the term of office was constitutionally extended from two to four years beginning with the election of 1974. Second, lieutenant governors have served ever more numerous terms since the 1890s. The increased longevity in office can significantly increase the informal influence and legislative expertise of lieutenant governors, and enables them to consolidate their control over the committees. The current lieutenant governor, Republican David Dewhurst, has served in the office since was first elected in 2002.

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