Among the bills Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed was one that provided a new method of replacing a lieutenant governor who leaves the office partway through a term. The most important thing about the office is that a lieutenant governor replaces the governor if there is a vacancy in the state’s top office caused by a death or a resignation. And, the lieutenant governor usually takes over the reins when the governor is out of the state.
The vetoed bill would have required a new lieutenant governor be selected during the next general election while an aide for the departing officeholder would handle administrative and ceremonial duties in the meantime. The lieutenant governor’s role as Senate president would be handled by the president pro tem of that body under the measure just vetoed.
If a vacancy occurs in the lieutenant governor’s office, it is unclear whether the governor can appoint a replacement until the next general election. Governors have appointed lieutenant governors who have been elected but whose terms haven’t started and that raised a legal question. This issue has never been resolved.
Gov. Nixon said he vetoed the bill because it was not clear on some points and was confusing. The process for filing the vacancy would turn the office of an elected official to a “vaguely defined staff member.” He found fault with turning over constitutional responsibilities to a staff member.
The other big question is what if something happened to the governor that would leave that office vacant, or couldn’t serve due to health reasons. Also the bill didn’t define ministerial duties to be performed by the aide and no process was given for identifying the aide and formally appointing he or she. Another point raised by the governor is that for a general election there was no mention of a primary.
Under Missouri law, the lieutenant governor runs separately from the governor. That means, such as it is now, the offices can be held by people from different parties. For sure, because of politics, the governor and lieutenant governor don’t always work hand in hand!
The veto was not a political action. The measure was poorly written, too vague in its provisions, not workable and should never have reached the governor’s office for a signature.