A proposal in the state Legislature to amend the way Pennsylvania’s lieutenant governor is selected reduces confusion and aims to prevent dissension at the highest levels of the state’s executive branch.
The bill, introduced and sponsored by state Sen. David G. Argall, R-Schuylkill, advanced this past week with a 47-3 vote in the state Senate after receiving previous approval in the House.
The measure to amend the state constitution would allow each political party’s gubernatorial nominee to choose who will serve under them as lieutenant, just as candidates for president of the United States choose a vice presidential running mate. The selection would be made after a candidate secures the party’s nomination in the primary election and would be subject to approval by the nominee’s political party.
Under the current system, candidates for governor and lieutenant governor run separately in the primary election for their party’s nomination, then join forces as a single ticket seeking election in the general election.
Argall said the intent of the changes is to avoid situations in which the two officeholders behave more like rivals than teammates.
“This bill would provide for greater trust in the executive branch to delegate duties while avoiding potential division and friction between the two officeholders,” Argall wrote in a memo to his fellow senators.
Indeed, agreement and trust are important elements because if the governor dies, resigns or leaves office, the lieutenant governor steps in as the successor. The lieutenant governor also presides in the state Senate and fulfills any duties assigned by the governor.
The call for change was spurred by events in 2017, when former Lt. Gov. Mike Stack was placed under investigation by the state Office of the Inspector General on allegations that he and his wife mistreated state employees, including members of their security detail. On April 22, 2017, Gov. Tom Wolf announced that he was removing the lieutenant governor’s state police protection.
The next year, in 2018, John Fetterman defeated Stack and three other candidates, winning the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor. He was then elected to a four-year term as Gov. Wolf’s running mate and has served as lieutenant governor since January 2019.
We understand and support the importance of elections and in no way diminish Fetterman’s election as the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor. What we don’t know is who Gov. Wolf would have selected as his running mate if he had the authority to make the choice.
With the approval of the state House and Senate, the proposal to change the selection process is nearly half complete. Because the change would amend the state constitution, the bill must be approved by both chambers of the state Legislature again during the next session — in 2021-2022 — and then be placed as a referendum question on an election ballot for final approval.
We’ll keep watching for developments and let you know if you will see this question — seeking your approval — on the election ballot within the next two years.
NOTE: Opinions expressed in The Daily Item’s editorials are the consensus of the publisher, top newsroom executives and community members of the editorial board. Today’s was written by Digital Editor Dave Hilliard.