Picard bill would have governor, lieutenant governor,
run as a ticket


STATE HOUSE – With Rhode Island in the midst of transitions in the governor’s and lieutenant governor’s offices, Sen. Roger A. Picard believes the time is right for the state to consider whether the two should be elected as a team.

He has introduced legislation (2021-S 0274) that would put a question before voters asking whether they wish to amend the state constitution to elect the governor and lieutenant governor together as one ticket.

The bill is one Senator Picard has introduced annually for years, and it passed the Senate once, in 2014. But given that Rhode Island is currently experiencing the leadership shift between the two general officers, Senator Picard thinks voters might be particularly interested in weighing in on the matter now.

“Right now, our state is witnessing a transition between a governor and a lieutenant governor with different ideas and priorities. That’s not a criticism of one or the other; it’s just that they were elected independently, each with their own separate plans and hopes for our state,” said Senator Picard (D-Dist. 20, Woonsocket, Cumberland). “The possibility of a transition always exists, so it would make sense for the governor and lieutenant governor to be partners from the start. Working as a team would make for a seamless handoff, and would assure voters that priorities aren’t going to change midterm if there is a transition.”

Besides creating a smooth, predictable transition if a lieutenant governor becomes governor, the change could serve to transform the office of the lieutenant governor, allowing that person to take a more active “deputy” role in the administration, and step in if the governor is temporarily unavailable, said Senator Picard.

Electing the two officeholders separately frequently means Rhode Island has a governor and a lieutenant governor who hail from different parties. In recent years, former lieutenant governor Elizabeth Roberts, a Democrat, served during the gubernatorial terms of independent Lincoln D. Chafee and Republican Donald Carcieri. Her predecessor, Democrat Charles Fogarty, served during the administrations of Carcieri and Lincoln Almond, also a Republican.

That situation can serve as a disincentive for a governor to alert the lieutenant governor to a planned absence from the state in which the lieutenant governor’s assistance might be needed.

If the bill passes and voters approved the question, Rhode Island would join the 26 states that currently elect their governors and lieutenant governors as a ticket.

“There are some clear advantages to electing the lieutenant governor and governor as a team, and I would like to see the people of our state have the opportunity to consider those possibilities,” said Senator Picard.

The bill had a hearing before the Senate Committee on Special Legislation and Veterans Affairs yesterday. Companion legislation (2021-H 5742) has been introduced in the House by Rep. Robert D. Phillips (D-Dist. 51, Woonsocket, Cumberland).



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