Mike Stack

THE ISSUE

A Republican state senator is gathering support for legislation that would allow the governor of Pennsylvania to choose his or her running mate in a manner similar to how a presidential nominee selects his running mate for vice president. State Sen. David Argall of Berks and Schuylkill counties, who is sponsoring the bill, said at a news conference last week that the “timing is right” for such a move. As LNP reported, 13 senators, including two Democrats, have signed on as co-sponsors to Argall’s legislation, which would place a proposed constitutional amendment before voters.

“The timing is right.”

That’s polite political shorthand for, “Let’s salvage something from the fiasco surrounding Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. Mike Stack’s alleged mistreatment of his security detail and other state employees.” The Office of Inspector General is investigating Stack and his wife, Tonya.

Stack, a Democrat, has apologized, saying, “I promise to the brave men and women who protect us, we will do better.”

Nine days after the April 12 apology, Gov. Tom Wolf, apparently unimpressed, stripped Stack of his state police security team and drastically cut his mansion staff.

We’re going to go out on a limb here and assume that in light of this nonsense, the governor and lieutenant governor might be more than a tweak or two away from a healthy, working relationship.

Enter Argall’s legislation. Yes, the timing is indeed right. In fact, allowing the governor to pick his or her own running mate — someone with whom the governor can work to actually get things done — is long overdue.

“I like the idea of choosing your No. 2 for the best way to handle your workload,” state Sen. Scott Martin told LNP. Martin, of Martic Township, is one of the bill’s co-sponsors.

Thirteen other states allow the governor to choose a running mate.

It’s unfortunate that it took the Stack mess to give life to this issue, but so be it. Perhaps we can recover something from yet another embarrassment.

The Stack story was first reported in April by The Caucus, LNP Media Group’s government watchdog publication. As The Caucus’ Brad Bumsted wrote last week, “The relationship between the governor and lieutenant governor in Pennsylvania is similar to that of an arranged marriage.” The two run in separate party primaries and are joined together in the general election.

It’s time to end the marriage.

“Pennsylvania taxpayers should not continue to suffer from this very strange arrangement between our No. 1 and No. 2 elected officials,” Argall said last week.

As taxpayers, it’s refreshing to hear an elected official acknowledge our suffering.

At the news conference last week, as Bumsted reported, someone asked Argall if this legislation was intended to embarrass Democrats.

Let’s just state for the record that both Democrats and Republicans in Harrisburg have plenty of other reasons to be embarrassed. We can’t imagine this bill making things much worse.

But actually alleviating the suffering about which Argall speaks is another matter.

For Argall’s bill to become law, the state Constitution would have to be amended. The bill would need to be approved in two consecutive legislative sessions and then be presented to the state’s voters for approval. The earliest that could occur would be 2019. For a legislature that has a history of moving about as fast as the tectonic plates, what’s another two years? Lawmakers should start the process now.

We are not going to make the case, as some of our readers have, that we don’t even need a lieutenant governor, or his $2.5 million taxpayer- funded mansion and security detail.

“What do we need with a lieutenant governor anyhow? Just eliminate the redundancy, save the money,” Columbia resident Al Shell wrote June 5.

The lieutenant governor chairs the Board of Pardons and presides over the Senate. Officially, that’s really about it. That’s not at all onerous for $162,000 a year, not including the house, security, transportation, among other perks. Most important, he takes over if the governor is unable to serve.

But, if we are going to have a lieutenant governor, the Legislature should seriously consider expanding his responsibilities.

“What does the lieutenant governor do anyway?” shouldn’t be a question for Pennsylvania taxpayers to ask or answer.

But it makes no sense to argue for an expanded role for the lieutenant governor if the governor can’t pick his running mate.

What if the two can’t work together? What if they just don’t like each other?

Imagine what that might look like. Yes. Just imagine.