AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage wants to get rid of the secretary of state position and replace it with a lieutenant governor.
The duties of the secretary of state, from running elections to licensing drivers, would come under the lieutenant governor, who also would be first in the line of succession to replace the governor.
The governor’s office confirmed it is drafting legislation that would not only make that change to the state’s constitution but would change how two other constitutional officers are appointed.
LePage wants the governor, not the Legislature, to name the attorney general and state treasurer.
LePage has had numerous disagreements with the Attorney General Janet Mills, a Democrat who was elected by the Legislature. She is serving her third term, having been elected when Democrats held legislative majorities in 2008, 2012 and 2014.
Although the bill has yet to be submitted, the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting has confirmed its rough outline with Peter Steele, the governor’s director of communications, and with Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap.
Maine is one of five states without a lieutenant governor. In states with lieutenant governors, they are first in the line of succession to be governor should the governor die in office or vacate the office. In Maine, the Senate president would assume the governorship if the governor left office prematurely.
LePage’s proposed changes would require an amendment to the Maine Constitution. That can only be accomplished with two-thirds approval by the Legislature and approval by Maine voters in a statewide vote.
“The speaker takes any kind of constitutional change seriously and would want to see the details of the bill before providing judgment,” said Jodi Quintero, communications director for House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick.
Dunlap said LePage told him about the bill while Dunlap was being sworn into office on Jan. 8.
“He said, ‘What I’m going to put in this legislation would basically replace the secretary,’” Dunlap said.
The lieutenant governor and governor would run as a team on the ballot, Dunlap said.
Other states without lieutenant governors are Arizona, New Hampshire, Oregon and Wyoming. In West Virginia and Tennessee, the Senate president also is the lieutenant governor.
Lieutenant governors have different responsibilities depending on the state, according to Julia Hurst, executive director of the National Lieutenant Governors Association.
“The only thing that all lieutenant governors do is succeed the governor should that have to take place,” she said.
Utah and Alaska are examples of states that have replaced their secretary of states with lieutenant governors, Hurst said.
Maine has at least twice considered creating a lieutenant governor. Bills were introduced in 1994 and 1995, but both were defeated in the House.
Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting Editor-in-Chief John Christie contributed to this story. The Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting is a nonpartisan, nonprofit news service based in Augusta. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Web: www.pinetreewatchdog.org.