Editorial: Florida doesn't need this job

Published March 14, 2013

Here's an idea for a governor and Legislature who say they are committed to reducing the state payroll and cutting costs: Eliminate the Florida lieutenant governor's office. • As Jennifer Carroll just confirmed, the job is a drain on taxpayers and can be a serious distraction. Gov. Rick Scott is proud to have cut nearly 9,000 state jobs since taking office two years ago. Now he should push lawmakers to ask voters to cut this one, and the support staff.

Ridding the state of another high-priced executive office could be the second needed reform to arise from the spectacular demise of Carroll, who had accomplished little before this week's revelations. She resigned abruptly Wednesday after being questioned as part of a federal investigation into an Internet sweepstakes cafe that posed as a veterans charity. While serving in the Florida House in 2009-10, Carroll's public relations firm represented the business, Allied Veterans of the World & Affiliates.

Now both House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz have called for banning the cafes, unregulated gambling enterprises that have operated in the shadow of the law due to Tallahassee complicity. They should next take aim at her old office, but not just because of Carroll. Scott's predecessor, Gov. Charlie Crist, had to deal with his own errant lieutenant governor, Jeff Kottkamp, who came under scrutiny for prolific travel, apparently because there was little else for him to do.

Florida just doesn't need a lieutenant governor. Between 1885 and 1968, it did without. The job's only official duty, spelled out in the Florida Constitution, is to step in if the governor is incapacitated or dies — something that has only happened twice in the past 45 years.

The state Constitution is packed with backup plans if both a governor and lieutenant governor are unavailable to lead. Members of the Cabinet — all elected statewide — are drafted in succession, starting with the attorney general. And in the unlikely circumstance that even that list of three is exhausted, there is a process for the Legislature, within 15 days, to appoint someone for the job until an election can be held.

It is true that some lieutenant governors have played far more integral roles in leading the state. Buddy MacKay, who briefly succeeded Gov. Lawton Chiles when he died, and Frank Brogan and Toni Jennings, under Gov. Jeb Bush, managed to use the office more productively. But as Republicans have said repeatedly, Florida needs to do more with less.

Finally, in case there are any doubts about putting another constitutional amendment on the ballot while the Legislature is still trying to atone for weighing down the November 2012 ballot with 11 lengthy measures that led to embarrassingly long lines at the polls, there shouldn't be. This one need not be long: Eliminate the lieutenant governor's job.