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Singleton Legislation to Overhaul Position of Lieutenant Governor Released by Assembly Panel

Measures Would Broaden LG Responsibilities, Increase Ethical Standards & Grant Tie-Breaking Power in Senate

Two bills sponsored by Assemblyman Troy Singleton to revamp the role of lieutenant governor and broaden the responsibilities of the position to bring it more in line with other states and the vice presidency was released Monday by an Assembly committee.

One bill (A-2868) would subject the lieutenant governor to existing laws governing recall and ethics requirements; give the position certain statutory duties and responsibilities; and establish annual compensation and an office budget for the position.

“Now that we’re well into the second term of this new position, we’ve had a chance to see how it works for New Jersey and where the position can be of greater assistance,” said Singleton (D-Burlington). “As the second highest position in state government, there should be a clearly defined and specific set of responsibilities appropriate for this level of office. These changes would add significantly more substance to the role of lieutenant governor.”

Currently, 44 states have a lieutenant governor with varying duties that typically include presiding over the Senate, breaking-roll-call votes, serving in the governor’s cabinet, and acting as governor when the governor is out of state.

Singleton’s legislation would bring New Jersey’s position of lieutenant governor more in line with other states

Specifically, the bill amends the “Uniform Recall Election Law,” to provide for the recall of the lieutenant governor, either individually or jointly with the governor. In the event that both officeholders are the subject of the same recall effort, they would be entitled to form only one recall defense committee. This would ensure that the same contribution limits and other conditions that currently apply when a governor is the subject of a recall effort will apply if the lieutenant governor, or both officeholders, are the subject of a single recall effort.

The bill also applies the provisions of the New Jersey Conflicts of Interest Law to the governor and lieutenant governor. This ensures that, at a minimum, both the governor and the lieutenant Governor will be subject to the same ethical standards that are currently required of other state officials and employees.
“The changes in this bill will also help ensure stronger ethical standards across all branches of state government,” added Singleton. “Traditionally, incoming governors issue ethics rules for themselves and their staff by executive order. This bill doesn’t intrude on their authority to do so, but merely requires that those rules meet or exceed those that apply to other officers and employees.”

Additionally, the bill would require the lieutenant governor to become a permanent, voting member of the Rutgers Board of Governors with a term coinciding with the term of office as lieutenant governor. The lieutenant governor would also be designated as a member of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority and serve as chairperson of that body.

Under the bill, current law would also be amended to allow the lieutenant governor to exhibit and display the Great Seal of the State of New Jersey, in whole or in part, including such use, exhibition and display on their motor vehicle license plates, and provision is made for a specific oath of office for the person assuming the office of lieutenant governor.

The bill also provides that the annual salary of the lieutenant governor is to be fixed and established at no less than 85 percent of the annual salary established by law for the governor. At the same time, the bill specifies that the amount of money allocated each year for the management and operation of the office of the lieutenant governor, other than for the annual salary of that official, is not to exceed five percent of the amount of money allocated each year for the management and operation of the office of the governor. The bill also permits the Lieutenant Governor to hire such staff as deemed necessary using the money allocated each year for the management and operation of that office.

Finally, the bill provides that any structure or property owned by the state and provided to the governor for use as an official executive residence would be made available to the lieutenant governor for use as an official executive residence in the event that the governor declines to utilize the property.

The bill remains contingent upon the approval by voters of an amendment to the state constitution changing the procedure for filling a vacancy in the office of lieutenant governor and allowing the lieutenant governor to cast the deciding vote when there is a tie vote in the State Senate.

The bill was released by the Assembly State and Local Government Committee, which also advanced a resolution (ACR-145) sponsored by Singleton that would put these changes on the ballot for voter approval.

The constitutional amendment would provide that when there is tie-vote in the State Senate on any bill or joint resolution, the lieutenant governor may cast the deciding vote. It also provides that when there is a vacancy in the office of Lieutenant Governor, a successor will be selected by the state committee of the lieutenant governor’s political party, instead of by the governor.