In the United States, a lieutenant governor is a person who serves as the second in command to a governor and takes the governor's place if he is unable to serve for some reason. For example, if a governor gets sick, dies, or has to leave office, the lieutenant governor usually takes his place. His other duties may range from serving as a senate officer to making public appearances on behalf of his state. In fact, a lieutenant governor's duties may vary from state to state, as each state may create its own requirements for those who fill this position. There are even some states that do not have lieutenant governors.
This position is hard to define simply because it differs from place to place. Some state laws only make an individual with this title a stand in, meaning he can fill in for the governor when needed and succeed him in the case of serious illness or death. Some laws allow the governor to decide which other duties his lieutenant governor will have. This may mean a governor may give his lieutenant numerous assignments and significant responsibility, or he may only call on him for participation in ceremonies or making public statements. Despite the fact that some individuals in this position may not have much power or responsibility, many are able to use this position to gain the notice and support of voters who can vote for them when they run for governor later.
There are some states in which the duties of a lieutenant governor are neither minor nor vague; some states allow the lieutenant governor to preside over the state senate. With this duty, a person can set guidelines for debates and make decisions regarding senate committees. In some cases, a person in this position has the authority to decide which bills are considered first as well. In fact, some lieutenant governors are permitted to choose senators to chair or serve on committees. Additionally, some states may allow those in this position to head commissions or serve as officers of the state’s university system.
A person usually becomes a lieutenant governor by winning a popular vote. He may run on the same ticket as a governor candidate or have a separate listing on the ballot. This depends on the state in which he runs. In other cases, a governor may appoint someone to this position after the previous lieutenant governor becomes unable to serve.