Frank Pignanelli & LaVarr Webb: Should Utah eliminate office of lieutenant governor?

Published: Sunday, May 1 2005 12:00 a.m. MDT

In addition, great value exists in having two elected people in the governor's office. They can cover more ground and more issues. The merit of the office of lieutenant governor is nicely demonstrated by our current lieutenant governor, Gary Herbert. He is tackling some of the state's toughest problems and is able to bring to bear the weight of the governor's office on some crucial issues.

Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. has assigned Herbert four key and meaningful tasks, in addition to his statutory duties of overseeing elections:

• Transportation. This is an enormous responsibility. Herbert said if citizens knew how serious our transportation challenges are, "they'd be shaking in their boots." He is point person in putting together a comprehensive, long-term, transportation plan that will include a transportation summit in the fall.

• Water. This includes continuing crucial conservation efforts but also developing water for the future. Water is the single largest limiting factor on Utah's growth. Big current issues include moving Lake Powell water into Washington and Iron counties and Bear River development.

• Homeland security. Huntsman wanted to bring the weight of the governor's office to work with the Department of Public Safety on this issue.

• Rural affairs. All sorts of hot issues are percolating out there off the Wasatch Front: RS2477 roads, wilderness, oil and gas development, ATV access, rural economic development and so forth.

So Herbert, with 14 years' experience as a county commissioner, has his hands full, and he's the right person for the job.

I'm all for a strong and streamlined executive branch. I'm in favor of making the offices of treasurer, auditor and maybe even attorney general appointed positions (like in the federal government). But keep the lieutenant governor. A governor can't be everywhere he or she needs to be, and it makes sense to have a lieutenant governor as backup to share the heavy workload.

Republican LaVarr Webb was policy deputy to Gov. Mike Leavitt and Deseret News managing editor. He now is a political consultant and lobbyist. E-mail: lwebb@exoro.com. Democrat Frank Pignanelli is a Salt Lake attorney, lobbyist and political adviser. A former candidate for Salt Lake mayor, Pignanelli served 10 years in the Utah House of Representatives, six years as House minority leader. Pignanelli's spouse, D'Arcy Dixon Pignanelli, is executive director of the state Department of Administrative Services in the Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. administration. E-mail: frankp@xmission.com.

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