The position of lieutenant governor is unlike any other in Washington state government because its duties fall both within the executive and legislative branches. While elected independently from the governor, the lieutenant governor becomes the acting governor whenever the governor leaves the state or is otherwise unable to serve. The lieutenant governor also functions as president of the state Senate and, as such, is the lead parliamentarian of that body and helps determine which legislation advances to the Senate floor for debate.
In addition to these specific responsibilities as set out by the state’s Constitution, a number of additional duties for the position are assigned by statute. As with any elected official, there is flexibility within the position for the incumbent to establish his or her own initiatives in matters of policy, governance or overall objectives of the office holder.
The number of days that the lieutenant governor serves as acting governor varies per calendar year and is determined solely by the governor’s schedule or ability to serve. While being acting governor grants the lieutenant governor all of the powers and responsibilities of the governorship, in practical application it entails the lieutenant governor signing administrative and legal directives and be available for critical decisions. The lieutenant governor typically would not make or propose policy changes or new initiatives while serving as acting governor, but does hold that authority.
The role of acting governor is an especially important one in times of a state or federally declared states of emergency. There have been several instances when the lieutenant governor has stood in for the governor to preside over emergency operations following devastating floods, forest fires, extreme snow storms, wind damage, lingering power outages and other natural disasters. This frequently goes beyond the declaration of emergency itself; it means briefings by appropriate state officials, visits to the incident command center, making statements to the media or conducting press conferences, visiting with emergency workers and touring the impacted areas.
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 21-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.
In addition, the lieutenant governor serves as a resource for Senate membership. The incumbent is frequently called upon to help resolve disputes between members, and keeps the door open to individual members who seek his counsel on a variety of issues.
Speaking Engagements and Public Appearances
The lieutenant governor is asked to speak or appear at many events around the state, both public and private. Speaking presentations can range from major keynote addresses to short welcoming remarks.
Economic Development and International Relations
The lieutenant governor by law chairs the Legislative Committee on Economic Development and International Relations (LCEDIR). This 13-member panel is made up evenly of members from the House and the Senate appointed by the chair. Committee meetings are typically held two or three times a year at the discretion of the lieutenant governor, who also determines which topics are presented.
In addition to the committee work the lieutenant governor continually meets with leaders in government, business, industry and education on economic development issues.
Throughout the year the lieutenant governor represents the state of Washington to visiting foreign officials. The lieutenant governor also reaches out to Washington state’s many ethnic groups throughout the year by speaking or appearing at events.
The lieutenant governor and his staff are active members of the Washington State Consular Association, comprised of dignitaries who formally represent 41 foreign nations in the state of Washington. His office is also affiliated by statute with the Association of Washington Generals, an honor organization whose members serve as ambassadors of trade and goodwill to foreign nations through a variety of initiatives.
The Office of Lt. Governor receives numerous calls from citizens seeking assistance with a wide assortment of issues. The lieutenant governor will frequently make inquiries on behalf of constituents to help resolve particularly complex problems that come into the office or ask his staff to do this on his behalf. He will also take on constituent issues he feels a particular passion for, especially if resolution of the issue has the potential to solve problems for others in similar situations as well.
As part of his duties the lieutenant governor serves by statute on 10 committees or boards, many in association with other elected officials. These include the aforementioned Senate Committee on Rules, the Legislative Committee on Economic Development and International Relations and the Association of Washington Generals.
Additionally, the lieutenant governor serves on:
• State Capitol Committee – Sets policy direction and provides oversight for capital buildings and grounds.
• State Finance Committee – Sets state bonding investment strategies for state finances (in association with the Governor and Treasurer).
• Washington Health Care Facilities Board
• Washington Higher Education Facilities Board
• Capital Furnishings Preservation Committee – Raises funds for maintenance and restoration of historic furniture.
Medal of Valor Committee
Medal of Merit Nominating Committee
The lieutenant governor makes appointments to 41 committees, boards and commissions as listed below.
(a) Organized crime advisory board, RCW 43.43.858;
(b) Civil legal aid oversight committee, RCW 2.53.010;
(c) Office of public defense advisory committee, RCW 2.70.030;
(d) Washington state gambling commission, RCW 9.46.040;
(e) Sentencing guidelines commission, RCW 9.94A.860;
(f) State building code council, RCW 19.27.070;
(g) Women’s history consortium board of advisors, RCW 27.34.365;
(h) Financial literacy public-private partnership, RCW 28A.300.450;
(i) Joint administrative rules review committee, RCW 34.05.610;
(j) Capital projects advisory review board, RCW 39.10.800;
(k) Select committee on pension policy, RCW 41.04.276;
(l) Legislative ethics board, RCW 42.52.310;
(m) Washington citizens’ commission on salaries, RCW 43.03.305;
(n) Oral history advisory committee, RCW 43.07.230;
(o) State council on aging, RCW 43.20A.685;
(p) State investment board, RCW 43.33A.020;
(q) Capitol campus design advisory committee, RCW 43.34.080;
(r) Washington state arts commission, RCW 43.46.015;
(s) Information services board, RCW 43.105.032;
(t) K-20 educational network board, RCW 43.105.800;
(u) Council for children and families, RCW 43.121.100;
(v) PNWER-Networking subgroup under chapter 43.147 RCW;
(w) Community economic revitalization board, RCW 43.160.030;
(x) Washington economic development finance authority, RCW 43.163.020;
(y) Life sciences discovery fund authority, RCW 43.350.020;
(z) Legislative children’s oversight committee, RCW 44.04.220;
(aa) Joint legislative audit and review committee, RCW 44.28.010;
(bb) Joint committee on energy supply and energy conservation, RCW 44.39.015;
(cc) Legislative evaluation and accountability program committee, RCW 44.48.010;
(dd) Agency council on coordinated transportation, RCW 47.06B.020;
(ee) Washington horse racing commission, RCW 67.16.014;
(ff) Correctional industries board of directors, RCW 72.09.080;
(gg) Joint committee on veterans’ and military affairs, RCW 73.04.150;
(hh) Washington state parks centennial advisory committee, RCW 79A.05.013;
(ii) Joint legislative committee on water supply during drought, RCW 90.86.020;
(jj) Statute law committee, RCW 1.08.001;
(kk) Joint legislative oversight committee on trade policy, RCW 44.55.020; and
(ll) Legislative youth advisory council, RCW 28A.300.801.