February 2016 Column: History of the Office of Lieutenant Governor
For the past 115 years, the Office of Lieutenant Governor has been an integral part of Alabama’s state government. The Office was created fifty years after Alabama became a State in 1819. The office was abolished for a short tenure in the 1800’s, then established again in the 1901 Constitution. The intent to re-establish the Office was to give a clear line of succession if the Governor could not fulfill their term. The decision change was a direct result of health issues surrounding Governor William Samford, who later died in office.
The Office of Lieutenant Governor is filled by an election every four years, but held to no more than two consecutive terms. Alabama’s Lieutenant Governor is elected on a separate ticket from the Governor. Five terms in history have been held by two different parties serving as Governor and Lieutenant Governor, at the same time. Alabama has had thirty Lieutenant Governors: twenty-six Democrats and four Republicans. I am honored to be the first Republican since Reconstruction to hold the office two consecutive terms and the first Republican woman to be elected.
The public’s general perception of the Lieutenant Governor is Presiding Officer of the Alabama Senate, which is a significant responsibility, but not the only duty. The roles and responsibilities are clearly defined by the Alabama Constitution, Alabama Code and the Senate Rules. As the President of the Alabama Senate, the Lieutenant Governor is responsible for convening the body into session, for the preservation of the order of the chamber, and for determination of points of order. The Lieutenant Governor plays an important role in the appointment of Senate Standing Committees, Interim Committees, assignment of bills to committee, appointing Senators to Conference Committees, voting in case of a tie, as well as approving all travel and expenses for Senators. Separately, the Lieutenant Governor appoints citizens of Alabama to various boards, commissions and authorities. Additionally, the Lieutenant Governor serves on numerous committees, commissions, authorities and boards, and appoints over 400 positions to approximately 167 boards and commissions that impact public policy.
All Lieutenant Governors have an opportunity to influence major policies and issues that may have a long-term impact on the future of the State. I have focused my efforts in several areas that will, hopefully, have a positive impact on the quality of life for Alabamians. In 2011, I worked closely with the Legislature to pass Senate Joint Resolution 69 (SJR69) that established the Alabama Job Creation and Military Stability Commission (MSC), which later also created the Military Stability Foundation. As Lieutenant Governor, one of my highest honors is to chair the Military Stability Commission. MSC works each day in a coordinated effort to protect and expand Alabama’s military assets in order to withstand future Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) reviews. In addition, I currently serve as Chairman of the Aerospace States Association, an organization of states working to advance aviation and space flight in member states and throughout the nation; it is the only aerospace advocacy organization that represents states and the citizens of the nation through the active participation of Lieutenant Governors of the states. Alabama has a rich history in aerospace and currently has 400 aerospace companies that employ 83,000 people. With a deep appreciation for aerospace, I work closely with professionals from across the nation to ensure that Alabama continues to be an attractive place to do business for the aerospace industry. Lastly, I serve as spokesperson for the End Child Hunger in Alabama (ECHA) initiative, a coordinated effort of the Hunger Solutions Institute at Auburn University. ECHA is focused on creating solutions to properly address the critical issue of hunger and food insecurity in Alabama.
Over the years there have been discussion and legislative proposals regarding the role of the Lieutenant Governor and changing it from the historic position that has served the State for over a century. Some of the Lieutenant Governors roles have changed as a result of the shift in political power. However, the Office of Lieutenant Governor and the people who have served have provided stability during times of transition and a conduit between the executive and legislative branches of government. For over 100 years, the Office of Lieutenant Governor has made significant contributions to help move our State forward. Previous Lieutenant Governors have served as legislators, mayors, Governor and in the U.S. Senate. I am proud to serve as the 30th and current Lieutenant Governor of Alabama and am grateful to those who have served before me.