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The Office of Lieutenant Governor was created by the Constitution of 1873, and its functions and duties have changed little since then. From 1776, when Pennsylvania became a state, until 1873, the Commonwealth had no Lieutenant Governor. Under a provision in the previous state constitution (1838), the ailing Governor Shunk, a Jeffersonian Democrat, resigned in 1848 and was succeeded by the president of the Senate who was a Whig and not the choice of electorate. Two Lieutenant Governors have succeeded Governors during their terms of office. Lieutenant Governor John C. Bell, Jr. was Governor for 19 days in January 1947, fulfilling the term of Governor Edward Martin who resigned to serve in the U. S. Senate. Lieutenant Governor Mark S. Singel served as Governor from June 14 through December 21, 1993, while the elected chief executive, Governor Robert P. Casey, was incapacitated by life sustaining surgery.

(Note that the modern Lieutenant Governor position has no relation to the colonial officials who, from 1701 to 1776, bore the same title.)

The Lieutenant Governor presides in the State Senate. Under the Constitution of 1873, the Lieutenant Governor could cast a deciding vote in any Senate measure in which the members' votes were equally divided. The Constitution of 1968 reduced this by stating that ". . . he may vote in case of a tie on any question except the final passage of a bill or joint resolution, the adoption of a conference report or the concurrence in amendments made by the House of Representatives." Lieutenant Governor's duties in the Senate are explained in the Senate Rules (presently in Section III); the President pro tempore of the Senate presides in the Lieutenant Governor's absence. When presiding, the Lieutenant Governor signs not only legislation but other formal measures passed by the Senate.

In the past, some Lieutenant Governors have chosen to conduct their office work in their home communities rather than in Harrisburg. Since the position is an office, not an administrative department, board, or commission, the provisions of the Administrative Code of 1929 requiring government agencies to have Harrisburg headquarters do not apply to the Lieutenant Governor. John Latta, the first Lieutenant Governor (served 1875-1879) resided at Bolton's Hotel on Market Square, Harrisburg. Incumbent Lieutenant Governors' choices of business addresses can be traced in Boyd's Harrisburg . . . Directory (to 1935), and Smull's Legislative Handbook and The Pennsylvania Manual. The new building, occupied in 1906, gave the Lieutenant Governor an inner office and a reception room. When the present Governor's Residence in Harrisburg was completed in 1968, the former Governor's "summer residence" at Indiantown Gap Military Reservation, constructed in 1940, became available as the Lieutenant Governors' residence.

Lieutenant Governors' staffs began to appear in Smull's Handbook in 1908. There, Lieutenant Governor Robert S. Murphy's staff (serving 1907-1911) had one clerk and one stenographer, both in his home community of Johnstown. Relative to other expanding state bureaus, Lieutenant Governor' staffs have remained small; Lieutenant Governor Samuel Lewis (served 1939-1943), from York, had a staff of three, only one of whom was assigned to Harrisburg. Lieutenant Governor Raymond P. Shafer's official staff (serving 1963- 1967) had, in 1964, only four positions, all designated as "assistants." All Pennsylvania's Lieutenant Governors have served on the Board of Pardons. Since 1923, when the Board became a unit within the Department of Justice, the Lieutenant Governor has held the powers and duty of the chairman of that board. The Commonwealth Attorneys Act of 1980 placed the administrative office of the Board of Pardons in the Office of the Lieutenant Governor. The Lieutenant Governor may, by statute, be placed in other government positions but cannot receive compensation beyond his fixed salary as Lieutenant Governor. Lieutenant Governors have served on many temporary boards such as the Commission to Investigate World War I Battlefields and the Pennsylvania Heritage Affairs Commission. In 1995, Lieutenant Governor Mark S. Schweicker was chairman of the Pardons Board, PEMA, and the Governor's Executive Council on Recycling. Appearances by Lieutenant Governors at public occasions which the Governor cannot attend seem to have gradually increased in recent decades. The 1996 statute creating the Department of Community and Economic Development made the Lieutenant Governor chairperson of the Local Government Advisory Committee.

The Lieutenant Governor is not a member of the Executive Board. The office is constitutionally within the Executive Department and submits a regular budget request, but is not itself a department. ("Governor's Cabinet" is not an official term in Pennsylvania government.)

As with the Governor's position, the Constitution of 1968 made the Lieutenant Governor eligible to succeed himself or herself for one additional four-year term.

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