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Article Index

Chapter XII

Executive Department. Governor and Lieutenant-Governor.

§1. The chief executive power of a state is, by the constitution, vested in a governor. The governor is chosen by the people at the general election; in South Carolina by the legislature. The term of office is not the same in all the states. In the six New England states, the governors are chosen annually; in the other states, for the different terms of two, three, and four years.

§2. The qualifications for the office of governor are also different in the different states. To be eligible to the office of governor, a person must have been for a certain number of years a citizen of the United States, and for a term of years preceding his election a resident of the state. He must also be above a certain age, which, in a majority of the states, is at least thirty years; and in some states he must be a freeholder.

§3. The powers and duties of a governor are numerous. He communicates by message to the legislature, at every session, information of the condition of the state of its affairs generally, and recommends such measures as he judges necessary and expedient. He is to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, and to transact all necessary business with the officers of the government. He may convene the legislature on extraordinary occasions: that is, if, at a time when the legislature is not in session, a matter should arise requiring immediate attention, the governor may call a special meeting of the legislature, or as it is usually termed, an extra session.

§4. A governor has power to grant reprieves and pardons, except in cases of impeachment, and, in some states, of treason. To _reprieve_ is to postpone or delay for a time the execution of the sentence of death upon a criminal. To _pardon_ is to annul the sentence by forgiving the offense and releasing the offender. A governor may also _commute_ a sentence; which is to exchange one penalty or punishment for another of less severity; as, when a person sentenced to suffer death, is ordered to be imprisoned.

§5. The governor has power also, in some of the states, with the consent of the senate, to appoint the higher officers of the militia of the state, and the higher civil officers in the executive and judicial departments. In a few of the states, there are executive councils whose advice and consent are required in such cases. In making such appointments, the governor nominates, that is, he _names_ to the senate, in writing, the persons to be appointed. If a majority of the senators consent, the persons so nominated are appointed. Many other duties are by the constitution devolved upon the governor.

§6. A lieutenant-governor has few duties to perform. He presides in the senate, in which he has only a casting vote. In the state of New York, he serves in some of the boards of executive officers. In nearly one-half of the states the office of lieutenant-governor does not exist. The chief object of electing this officer seems to be to provide a suitable person to fill the vacancy in the office of governor in case the latter should die, resign, be removed, or otherwise become incompetent.

§7. When the lieutenant-governor acts as governor, the senate chooses from its own number a president. If the offices of both the governor and lieutenant-governor should become vacant, the president of the senate must act as governor. If there should be neither a governor, a lieutenant-governor, nor a president or speaker of the senate, then, the speaker of the house of representatives would become the acting governor. This is believed to be the rule for supplying vacancies in most if not all of the states.