By Jordan Williams/Arizona Sonora News Capitol Bureau
PHOENIX- The Arizona House government committee passed Senate Concurrent Resolution 1008, which would amend the state constitution to add a lieutenant governor in Arizona’s line of succession.
The resolution, which the Senate passed by a vote of 23-7, requires a gubernatorial nominee to choose a running mate for lieutenant governor no later than sixty days before a general election. The joint ticket with the most votes then wins.
Sen. J.D. Mesnard (R-17), sponsor of the resolution, told the committee that voters will understand this model, since this is also how it works in a presidential election.
“You run in a primary as governor, if you become the nominee then you select a running mate,” Mesnard said. “It’s whoever runs for the general election, they choose a running mate.”
With the addition of lieutenant governor, the secretary of state would be second in the line of succession. Mesnard’s proposal also moves the attorney general to third in line, followed by the state treasurer and superintendent of education.
Currently, the secretary of state is the immediate successor to the office of governor, followed by the state treasurer, attorney general, and superintendent of education. This was the case in 2009, when former Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican,succeeded to the office when then-Governor Jan Napolitano, a Democrat, resigned to become U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security.
Aside from a governor resigning or getting impeached, Mesnard noted that the secretary of state also takes over when a governor temporarily leaves the state, which has caused problems in the past.
“I can tell you from experience there were some contemplated shenanigans back in the 2000s when Jan Napolitano was governor,” Mesnard said. “A very frustrated Republican legislature at times thought that they might take advantage of her absence to rush things through the legislature with a more friendly secretary of state.”
Mesnard also told the committee that that whomever succeeds the governor should be consistent with the voter decision, as opposed to a “radical change” from one administration to the next.
The committee passed Mesnard’s proposal on a party-line vote of 6-5, with Democrats expressing some concerns about the bill.
Rep. Lorenzo Sierra (D-19) was concerned over what defines a “disability” where a governor would have to step down.
“If anything, I’ve found being in this body in my first year is that several years later, we go back having to define particular words and concepts,” Sierra said, noting that plenty of people who are permanently disabled are qualified to hold office.
Rep. Jennifer Jermaine (D-18) said she voted no because while she saw the value for lieutenant governor, she would have preferred the candidate run on separate tickets so that voters can “choose their own line of succession.”
Ultimately since SCR 1008 is a constitutional amendment, voters will decide whether or not to adopt the change to Arizona’s constitution in the next election if both chambers of the legislature approve it.
Mesnard’s proposal, if voters approve it, would not take effect until terms begin in 2027, which Mesnard told the committee he did so that current Secretary of State Katie Hobbs can run for a second term.