A Modest Proposal

I remember years ago when the lieutenant governor of Massachusetts was pregnant with twins and people were talking about how much time off she ought to have.

I was amazed at the presumption, made by all these seemingly intelligent people, that if the lieutenant governor did not show up for work, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts would somehow lose money.

Now I think all fifty states could do away with lieutenant governors altogether and save many millions of dollars. New Hampshire has never had one, and has never felt the need for one.

But even if we’re not ready to go that far, all fifty states would save millions  if the lieutenant governors got paid for staying home.

You have to ask yourself, ‘What do lieutenant governors do?’

Turns out what they do is confer with other lieutenant governors about how to make themselves useful while waiting for that fateful phone call.

And do they convene in dreary Rust Belt cities? They do not.

I have some experience with this because as president of the New Hampshire  Senate, my boss Vesta Roy was also considered the lieutenant governor of the state by the many lieutenant governors’ associations, so she might have chosen any number of tropical vacations at taxpayer expense. She did not.

There are two things lieutenant governors are actually needed for: minding the store when the governor is out of state and taking over if the governor dies or is disabled.

Minding the store, how hard is that? How hard would it be for the governor to designate a deputy? The succession issue is a little bit more complex, but only a little bit.

In fact Governor Hugh Gallen died in office and Senator Roy became acting governor. In some other state, I suppose, this might have created a problem, because Governor Gallen was a Democrat and Senator Roy was a Republican.

Someone other than Vesta Roy might have tried to take advantage of the situation for partisan political purposes, but I can say, as one who was there, the idea was never considered.

New Hampshire was mourning a real political hero. The guy who stood up to Mel Thompson and won and gave New Hampshire citizens a whole new view of themselves.

 I remember toasting his election again and again. Among many, many other things Governor Thompson had proclaimed his friendship with the apartheid government of South Africa.

And Gallen beat him in the year of the Reagan landslide, when Republican dogcatchers all over the county were swept into office with unassailable pluralities.  It was lucky I had a keg on hand.

I could now go to the supermarket and feel great about my fellow New Hampshire citizens.

Sadly, Hugh Gallen died just one month before the end of his term. While he was in the hospital, a white owl perched on the State House dome, and it flew away the day he died.

And even in this tragic situation, the State of New Hampshire never felt the need for a lieutenant governor. If the fifty states are truly ‘the laboratory of democracy,’ aren’t these data pretty conclusive?