State Sen. Alan Lasee, R-De Pere, has always been an interesting character. Perhaps it comes with the territory, as he is stranded over in the corner of the state in Door County, surrounded by tourists and cranberry farmers. Or it just might be the cowboy hat he totes around on his head. However it came about, Lasee has a reputation of being an interesting lawmaker, and with that comes interesting ideas. One of Lasee's most recent initiatives is actually one of his old standbys: give the offices of secretary of state and lieutenant governor the axe in Wisconsin.
Lasee has tried to get rid of these positions numerous times in the past to no avail, but not necessarily due to merit. The position of secretary of state in particular is of questionable value to the state, particularly since it was stripped of the responsibility to regulate and tabulate voting.
Currently, the secretary of state is tasked with four duties: succeeding the lieutenant governor upon a vacancy in that position, holding a spot on the board of commissioners for the sale of public lands, maintaining the records of official state acts and keeping the seal of the state of Wisconsin. Of these duties, replacing the lieutenant governor and guarding the state seal are wholly unnecessary and involve no work whatsoever, the board of commissioners seat could easily be appointed by the governor and maintaining records could be done by some political-wonk high school student. Yet for performing these simple responsibilities, the secretary of state's office receives almost $400,000 in funding yearly.
Based on that assessment, it is hard to justify keeping the secretary of state around. If not for partisan political struggles and the institution that is Douglas LaFollette, the sitting secretary of state who has been in office for decades, the position could probably be done away with easily. But the lieutenant governor's chair is another issue. The position's power can change with every election, as it often becomes whatever the officeholder makes of it. Barbara Lawton hasn't exactly had a lot on her plate with the position, but she has used it as a soapbox for issues she finds important, such as promoting the arts. However, the only real duty the lieutenant governor is actually assigned is to wait in the wings for the governor to vacate office.
Now while this is not a heavy workload, it is nonetheless essential. The state needs somebody to step into the governor's position immediately in the event the office is vacated. Unlike the unnecessary secretary of state position, the lieutenant governor cannot just be tossed aside.
However, that doesn't mean the position cannot be used more effectively. Other than the governor, the lieutenant governor is the highest profile position in the state and it should hold the responsibilities of such a position. Barbara Lawton and her successors shouldn't just stand around waiting for the governor to keel over. At the very least, the lieutenant governor should be given the responsibilities of the secretary of state, and preferably other duties from other overtaxed government agencies.