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Role of the California Lieutenant Governor

Lt. Gov. is largely a ceremonial role in this state

By Chris Micheli, August 5, 2019 6:15 am

If a recall of the Governor is initiated, the recall duties must be performed by the Lt. Gov.

 

California’s Lieutenant Governor (LG) has a largely ceremonial role in this state. He or she runs separately (i.e., the Lt. Governor is not on the same ticket as the governor, as opposed to how the President and Vice President of the United States are elected jointly) and officially serves as the President of the State Senate (casting a vote in the case of a tie). The LG also serves on a number of boards and commissions, such as the Chair of the State Lands Commission.

Under California’s Constitution, the Lieutenant Governor serves as Acting Governor whenever the Governor is absent from the state and automatically becomes Governor if a vacancy occurs in that office. The LG serves as a voting member of the Board of Regents of the University of California and a voting member of the Board of Trustees of the California State University system.

In addition, pursuant to state law, the LG chairs the California Commission for Economic Development, which provides support and guidance to the Governor, Legislature and private sector regarding the development of California’s economy.

Eleni T. Kounalakis, Current California Lt. Gov. (Kevin Sanders for California Globe)

Constitutional Provisions

There are several sections of the California Constitution dealing with the LG. Article V has several provisions related to the LG because this is the article dealing with the executive branch of state government.

Article 5, Section 5(b) provides that, whenever there is a vacancy in the office of the LG, the Governor must nominate a person to fill the vacancy who must take office upon confirmation by a majority of the membership of the Senate and a majority of the membership of the Assembly and who will hold office for the balance of the unexpired term.

In the event the nominee for LG is neither confirmed nor refused confirmation by both the Senate and the Assembly within 90 days of the submission of the nomination, the nominee then takes office as if he or she had been confirmed by a majority of the Senate and Assembly; provided, however, that if such 90-day period ends during a recess of the Legislature, the period is extended until the sixth day following the day on which the Legislature reconvenes.

Article 5, Section 9 provides that the LG must have the same qualifications as the Governor, and that the LG is President of the Senate but only has the role of casting a tie-breaking vote.

Section 10 specifies that the LG becomes Governor when a vacancy occurs in the office of Governor. Also, the LG must act as the Governor during the impeachment, absence from the State, or other temporary disability of the Governor or of a Governor-elect who fails to take office.

In addition, Section 10 provides that the Legislature provides an order of precedence after the LG for succession to the office of Governor and for the temporary exercise of the Governor’s functions. The Supreme Court has exclusive jurisdiction to determine all questions arising under this section, and standing to raise questions of vacancy or temporary disability is vested exclusively by statute.

Section 11 provides that the LG is to be elected at the same time and places and for the same term as the Governor. And, no LG may serve in the same office for more than 2 terms.

In Article 5, Section 14, the conflict of interest provisions apply to the LG as he or she is a state officer.

In Article 2, Section 17, if a recall of the Governor is initiated, then the recall duties of that office must be performed by the LG.

Article 9, Section 9 provides that the LG is an ex officio member of the University of California corporation, also known as a Regent.

Statutory Provisions

Statutory provisions related to the LG are primarily contained in the Government Code. Article I specifies duties and Section 1201 states that the LG may appoint and, subject to the approval of the Director of Finance, fix the salaries of one secretary and such clerical assistants as the LG deems necessary for his or her office.

Article 2 concerns impeachment and Section 3039 states that, if the LG is impeached, notice of the impeachment must be immediately given to the Senate by the Assembly in order that another president may be chosen.

Chapter 2 deals with the Commission for Economic Development and Section 14999.1 specifies the commission’s membership of 17 individuals and that the LG serves as chairman of the Commission. In addition, the Governor, upon the nomination of the LG, appoints an executive secretary for the Commission. That appointee serves at the pleasure of the LG. Also, the LG appoints the staff of the Commission and those staff are employees of the LG’s office.

Article 5.5 concerns the succession to the Office of the Governor. Section 12058.5 provides that, in the case of the death, disability or other failure to take office of the Governor-elect, whether occurring prior or subsequent to the returns of election, the LG acts as Governor from the same time and in the same manner as provided for the Governor-elect and, in the case of death, becomes Governor for the full term or, in the case of disability or other failure to take office, acts as Governor until the disability of the Governor-elect ceases.

Section 7.6(b) provides that the LG may designate any person in his or her office holding a specified position to act as a deputy for the purposes of certain provisions of law. However, the LG may not appoint a person to act as a deputy for him or her at meetings of the Senate, or of the Regents of the University of California, or of the Trustees of the California State University.

Article 2 concerns vacancies and Section 1775 provides that, whenever there is a vacancy in the office of the LG, then the Governor must nominate a person to fill the vacancy who will take office upon confirmation by a majority of the membership of the Senate and a majority of the membership of the Assembly and who will hold office for the balance of the unexpired term.

However, in the event the nominee is neither confirmed nor refused confirmation by both the Senate and the Assembly within 90 days of the submission of the nomination, the nominee takes office as if he or she had been confirmed by a majority of the Senate and Assembly provided that, if such 90-day period ends during a recess of the Legislature, the period is to be extended until the sixth day following the day on which the Legislature reconvenes. Note that, after a vacancy has occurred in an office under this section, and prior to the time the vacancy is filled, the chief deputy to the constitutional officer must discharge the duties of the office.

Article 1 concerns resignations and specifies in Section 1750 that resignations must be in writing and that if one is done by the LG, then it is provided to the Legislature, if it is in session. If it is not in session, then the resignation letter is provided to the Secretary of State.

Chapter 1 has numerous general provisions. Section 99500(b) specifies that the LG is the Chair of the California Commission for Economic Development, to improve trade opportunities for California. The Legislature finds that the Commission has developed international partnerships that provide venues for foreign companies to do business in the state and for California-based companies to access foreign markets.

Chris Micheli

Chris Micheli is a Principal with the Sacramento governmental relations firm of Aprea & Micheli, Inc. He is also an Adjunct Professor at McGeorge School of Law in its Capital Lawyering Program.
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