Lawmakers could consider competing changes to Lt. Governor’s office

Even though he won’t be the Republican candidate to succeed former U.S. Rep. JoAnn Emerson, Missouri Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder said Monday he still backs a bill that would require a quick special election when there’s a vacancy in his office.

And, he told the News Tribune, he opposes the idea of having the governor and lieutenant governor run as a team — an idea that state Sen. John Lamping on Monday asked a Senate committee to endorse.

“I have never favored that,” Kinder said Monday afternoon. “The Constitution writers got it right in 1945.

“You have, at least, the opportunity for there to be a check on the executive power of the governor.”

However, Lamping, R-Ladue, told the Senate’s Financial & Governmental Organizations and Elections Committee: “I thought there were multiple things that, by combining these two things, could actually happen — one is, they would be on the same page.

“It would be two people representing the executive branch.”

Because the Constitution says the lieutenant governor presides over the state Senate’s actions — and can break tie votes, if they occur — making the lieutenant governor part of the governor’s team means “we’d have a built-in bridge from the executive branch to the legislative branch,” Lamping explained.

Under Lamping’s bill and proposed constitutional amendment, Missouri voters would nominate governor candidates in each political party’s primary, and the nominees then would choose their lieutenant governor running-mate for the general election — similar to the process at the national level for the president/vice president races.

Then, if there were a vacancy in the lieutenant governor’s office, the governor simply could appoint someone else he or she could work with as a team.

That idea is different from laws proposed by state Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, and Rep. Jason Smith, R-Salem, which would require the governor to call a special election to fill the vacancy.

Smith’s bill cleared the House last month on a 115-45 vote, and is waiting for a hearing by the same committee Lamping addressed Monday.

“It would be good to have the election as quickly as possible,” Kinder said, adding that the office wouldn’t suffer a major disruption.

“You can have the president pro tem of the Senate step in and fill some of the functions,” he explained.

Lamping told the committee “there’s merit to combining these two offices,” and noted that 25 U.S. states already follow the team approach, while only 18 other states have the split offices like Missouri has.

No one supported or opposed Lamping’s proposals, and the committee took no action Monday on either Lamping’s bill or his proposed amendment.

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