The Office of Lieutenant Governor plays a unique and interesting role in state government. The lieutenant governor is the only statewide elected official who has duties in both the legislative and executive branch. Due to the Constitutional separation of powers,  however, the lieutenant governor is precluded from presiding as President of the Senate when he is called upon to serve as Acting Governor.

President of the Senate

As president of the state Senate, the lieutenant governor stands at the rostrum in senate chambers whenever the senate is in session and leads the parliamentary discussion as legislation is being debated. If there is a dispute on the floor or if there is a question on procedure or even the legality of a motion, the lieutenant governor, in association with senate counsel, will be called upon to make a ruling on the matter.

The lieutenant governor also presides over joint sessions of the state Senate and House of Representatives, such as the governor’s annual State of the State Address, the chief justice of the Supreme Court’s State of the Judiciary address and many others.

In this position as president of the Senate, the lieutenant governor is also chair of the Senate Committee on Rules, the 20-member body that determines which legislation advances to the floor of the senate for debate. The lieutenant governor is a voting member of this committee.

Appointment process

During the legislative session bills are passed that establish new commissions, interim committees, task forces and work groups. Frequently those new laws require the lieutenant governor, sometimes listed as President of the Senate, to appoint members from the two largest caucuses of the Senate to the newly established body.

As President of the Senate, it has been the lieutenant governor’s tradition to consult with caucus leaders before appointing members to commissions, task forces, and work groups. Specifically, the Senate’s Majority leader and Minority leader send the lieutenant governor a letter requesting that a specific member of his or her caucus be appointed to a specific entity. In most cases an appointment letter is then issued to the Senator with a copy being sent to the caucus leader and certain designated staff.

If for some reason a senator leaves office or determines that he or she does not want to participate on a body that he or she has been appointed to, the lieutenant governor receives notice from the caucus leader and a new member is appointed from that caucus.

If you are staff to a board or commission and need information regarding an appointment please contact John Schochet at 360.786.7714 or john.schochet@ltgov.wa.gov.

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