Editorial: A good place to streamline N.C. government

Aug. 24, 2013 @ 01:14 AM

Finally, an idea from Florida worth emulating. Of course, it was an accident, but an accidental worthy idea is still a worthy idea.

Florida has been without a lieutenant governor for five months (he resigned amid a scandal), and all that has happened is the state has been saving money from not paying a lieutenant governor and his staff and not paying for his travel.

Which raises an old question: Does anyone really need a lieutenant governor?

They tend not to serve much of a purpose. As Orlando Sentinel columnist Scott Maxwell wrote recently, “The office has no official duties — other than to remain alive. And other states have scrapped the position, creating succession plans that involve other officeholders who are just as capable of not dying.”

Five states have no lieutenant governor: Arizona, Maine, New Hampshire, Oregon and Wyoming.

Mainly, the position of lieutenant governor seems to be a spot for building name recognition for a future race for governor. But even that doesn’t always work out. Witness poor Bill Bolling in Virginia, who served a term as lieutenant governor, chose to run for a second term four years ago rather than run a losing race for his party’s nomination for governor against a more appealing attorney general, then this year is blocked again by another ambitious and more popular attorney general.

Since it is a position with not much to do but build name recognition, often the occupants spend a lot of time simply trying to make headlines, as North Carolina’s own Dan Forest is doing lately by picking fights with the state superintendent of public instruction, who was appointed by a governor of Forest’s own party. In other words, the lieutenant governor is fighting with the governor’s staff. Who does that help?

Maybe this is an idea that needs to be added to the list of government reforms that the legislature hammered at in the session that ended last month. It would save money, and it would affect almost no one. Sounds like a winner.