What does a lieutenant governor do?

Lieutenant Governor Duties

Sometimes, lieutenant governors don't do anything. For example, in the early 1990s, former Maryland Lt. Gov. Mickey Steinberg had a falling out with his boss, Gov. Parris Glendening, over tax legislation. Since the Maryland constitution lets the governor choose his second-in-command's duties, Glendening simply ignored Steinberg for the next three years, giving him no assignments accept minor ceremonial ones [source: Timberg].

Other lieutenant governors take a relaxed approach to the job. In 2008, the Orlando Sentinel newspaper staff obtained Florida Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp's schedule and discovered that over a 22-month period, there were 60 weekdays -- the equivalent of two months -- in which Kotthamp had had no appointments at all. During that time, the state also spent $425,000 on air flights for Kottkamp -- two-thirds of which were trips to Fort Myers, where he owned a vacation home. (Kottkamp insisted to the newspaper that his boss, Gov. Charlie Criss, actually had given him "lots of responsibilities," and that his travel was a sign of that) [source: O'Matz]. Still others choose to have some fun on the job. Back in 1974, former Delaware Lt. Gov. Gene Bookhammer once competed with fellow Republican politician Pete Du Pont in a contest to see who was faster at putting clothes on a female mannequin. Bookhammer reportedly lost [source: Cohen].

Kidding aside, the lieutenant governor obviously isn't always just a stand-in or a ceremonial figure. In 30 states -- Mississippi, Washington, North Carolina, and Texas, among others -- the lieutenant governor also doubles as the presiding officer of the state senate. Many of them have the power to set rules and control the direction of debates, to determine which committees consider legislation and even to determine the order in which bills are considered. Several even have to power to pick which senators sit on various committees or chair them.

Such authority can allow them to quietly wield significant power. South Carolina's lieutenant governor Andre Bauer has used his powers as presiding senate officer to block more than $2 billion in proposed new taxes. And lieutenant governors occasionally even cast tie-breaking votes on controversial legislation. In 2005, when current North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue held the number two job, she cast a tie-breaking vote to create a new state lottery [source: NLGA].