The Office of Lieutenant Governor

Lieutenant governors are often the first in line of succession when a governor leaves office in the middle of a term. But that’s not always the case. Lieutenant governors may obtain duties through gubernatorial appointment, statute, the Constitution, direct democracy action or personal initiative.

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    Lieutenant governors are often the first in line of succession when a governor leaves office in the middle of a term. But that’s not always the case.1
    • Forty-three states and territories include an office of lieutenant governor, who is first in line of succession to the governor’s office.
    • In four states, senate presidents are the first in line of succession to the governor’s office.

      • Two of those states—Tennessee and West Virginia—bestow the title of lieutenant governor in recognition of that function. 
      • In the other two states—New Hampshire and Maine—the senate president is first in line of succession but does not carry the title of lieutenant governor.
    • The secretary of state in three states—Arizona, Oregon and Wyoming—and Puerto Rico move to the governor’s office when there’s a vacancy.
    Lieutenant governors may obtain duties through gubernatorial appointment, statute, the Constitution, direct democracy action or personal initiative.2
    • Twenty-seven lieutenant governors preside over the state senate.
    • Eleven lieutenant governors appoint committees.
    • Twenty-three lieutenant governors are called on to break roll-call ties.
    • Seven Southern lieutenant governors—in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia—and the Vermont lieutenant governor have the power to assign bills. The president of the Tennessee Senate also has the title of lieutenant governor.
    • In 24 states, the governor has the authority to assign duties to the lieutenant governor. In 22 states, the lieutenant governor is a member of the governor’s cabinet or advisory body.
    • Thirty-six lieutenant governors serve as acting governor when the state’s leader is out of the state.

    Lieutenant governors are selected through the election process.3

    • Thirty states and territories elect the governor and lieutenant governor as a team in the general election, while 19 states and territories elect the officials separately.
    • In 46 states and territories, the lieutenant governor serves a four-year term; three lieutenant governors—in Tennessee, Vermont and West Virginia—serve only two years.
    • The general public of 47 states and territories elect the lieutenant governor, either by constitutional or statutory authority. 
    • In Tennessee and West Virginia, where the title of lieutenant governor is bestowed on the senate president, the senate elects this leader to a two-year term.
    States set differing requirements for service in the office of lieutenant governor.4
    • Every state and territory sets a minimum age for serving as lieutenant governor.

      • In 31 states, the minimum age of service is 30. 
      • Six states require the officeholder to be 25. 
      • Six others set the age limit at 18. 
      • Oklahoma’s lieutenant governor must be at least 31; South Dakota requires the officeholder to be 25; and American Samoa and Northern Mariana Islands set the minimum age at 35.
    • Forty-seven states and territories include a formal provision that the lieutenant governor be a resident of that state or territory, ranging in duration from one year in Minnesota and West Virginia to 10 years in Missouri.

      • Twelve of those states do not specify the number of years the lieutenant governor must be a resident of that state.
      • Two states—Kansas and North Dakota—have no formal provision on state residency.
    References:
    1 Julia Nienaber Hurst, “Lieutenant Governors: Significant and Visible,” in The Book of the States 2006, ed. Keon S. Chi, 181-183. Lexington: The Council of State Governments, 2006.
    2 "Lieutenant Governors: Qualifications and Terms," in The Book of the States 2010, ed. Audrey Wall, 231-233. Lexington: The Council of State Governments, 2010.
    3 "The Lieutenant Governors, 2011," in The Book of the States 2011, ed. Audrey Wall, 165-166. Lexington: The Council of State Governments, 2011.
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