Selection process for Lt. Gov needs further evaluation

A proposed constitutional amendment being discussed again in Harrisburg to change the method by which Pennsylvania’s lieutenant governor is selected is worth pursuing.

Legislation to implement that change should be passed in the current legislative session and the one that will begin in 2019.

After that, either as part of a subsequent primary or general election, state voters would have the opportunity to give the proposal a thumbs-up or thumbs-down by way of a ballot referendum.

Based on the way the current proposal is crafted, a “yes” vote on amending the constitution would seem to be the logical choice. But first, the idea must traverse the legislative process, gaining the approval of both the House and Senate and then obtaining the concurrence of the governor, whoever that might be at the time.

The proposed change, now contained in state Senate Bill 761, would allow gubernatorial nominees selected in the primary election to pick a running mate for the general election, similar to the way a United States presidential nominee does.

However, in the case of “761,” a gubernatorial nominee would be required to announce his or her lieutenant governor selection within 30 days of the completed primary election, whereas, on the national level, vice-presidential choices are announced by the presumed party standard-bearers at — or about the time of — the political parties’ national conventions.

It’s in the best interests of Pennsylvania that its governor and lieutenant governor are capable of working together harmoniously, which hasn’t been a problem most of the time.

However, current Gov. Tom Wolf and Lt. Gov. Mike Stack have what’s perceived as a deteriorated governmental relationship that can be judged as not being in the commonwealth’s best interests.

It’s less likely that such a situation would exist if Wolf, after he won the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 2014, would have been able to hand-pick a running mate.

Stack won the right to be Wolf’s running mate when he was nominated separate of Wolf during that year’s primary.

The newly revived attempt to change the way Pennsylvania selects its lieutenant governor was the topic of a public hearing last Tuesday in the state Capitol. The session featured a panel of former lieutenant governors and two former leaders of the state Republican and Democratic parties — all of whom voiced support for the plan outlined in SB 761.

Among the panelists was former state Sen. Robert C. Jubelirer of Altoona, who served as lieutenant governor after Gov. Tom Ridge left office to become the nation’s first Secretary of Homeland Security.

Also among the panelists was former Lt. Gov. Mark Singel of Johnstown, who served under Gov. Robert Casey Sr.

According to the online news and information service Capitolwire, Jubelirer, during the panel discussion, said “my view has only strengthened that change is necessary, from the standpoints of practical operation and public confidence in state government becoming more effective and cost efficient.”

As for Singel, a former two-term second-in-command, he said he thinks “the time has come to correct this aberration of electing these two people independently and hoping (for) the best in what amounts to a shotgun marriage.”

Again, this idea isn’t new. It’s been around for decades, but never gained traction.

Amid the chilly relationship between Wolf and Stack, now is the right time for Harrisburg to dig in to try to make it happen.

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