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Former Staffer for Lt. Governor Rockefeller: Eliminate Office or Change It

A member of Winthrop P. Rockefeller's staff believes the office needs more duties or needs to take less of the budget.
LITTLE ROCK, AR - Steve Brawner spent plenty of time inside the Capitol's corridors as a staff member for Lieutenant Governor Winthrop P. Rockefeller.

"It was not the best use of what is now $400,000," he said.

And that's essentially how he began his online commentary about the issue. Brawner is a freelance journalist and columnist who tackled the issue online.

Brawner said he saw Rockefeller follow the express duties of the lieutenant governor outlined in the Arkansas Constitution, which encompasses two jobs: presiding over the Senate when it is in session and serving as governor when the governor is out of state or unable to serve.

"It's not a complete waste, but if there are others who can do the job, then why not do that?" Brawner said.

Brawner said the office doesn't require full-time staff in its current, or previous, form. The office has sat empty since February with the lights off, doors locked and mail piling up because Mark Darr resigned the seat amidst controversy.

"These are the taxpayers dollars and the government should be doing the same thing as private sector and try to be as efficient as possible," he said. "We did have some good people work in that office, but right now-- it has not hurt the state not having anybody there."

So, Brawner suggests the state either eliminate the office and sort out who would ascend the governorship if necessary, noting the pros and cons of each option thrown out. Or, he said, the state could change it by assigning additional responsibility.

"Give it some real duties," Brawner said. "Make him or her the head of a state agency or on commissions. Some lieutenant governors have worked to expand the office, but that's largely depended on the individual in the office."

Brawner would go even further, placing the governor and the lieutenant governor on a dual ticket, teaming them up so they shared staff and duties, like the president and vice president.

"When we had time in the lieutenant governor's office, and we had time, we would talk about this kind of thing," he said. That's what we thought might be the best thing, because they would be a team and could share duties that just the governor does now."

We reached out to the candidates running for the office in November. Congressman Tim Grffin (R) responded saying:

I believe that every government office and agency should routinely be reviewed for reform and improvement. I also believe the office of the lieutenant governor is important as an advocate for reform and change and I want to advocate for policies that will help us grow jobs and compete. Twice in the last 22 years the lieutenant governor has has [sic]  to step in and become governor -- once during a very tumultuous time in our state's history -- so we should elect our lieutenant governors with the same deliberation as our governors.

John Burkhalter (D) seconded the jobs note, adding:

The question is not whether we need the position, the question is what kind of lieutenant governor do we need. The office is not for on the job training, I will get to work fulltime on day one. Our lieutenant governor should be a vital advocate for job creators in our state. I will bring real-world experience creating jobs, building and growing small businesses and recruiting companies of all sizes to Arkansas.

Two state senators have suggested abolishing the office and allowing the attorney general to ascend if the governor were to be removed from office or unable to complete his/her term.
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