U.s. Lieutenant Governors In City For Conference

Idea Is To Brush Up On Their Policy Skills. Just In Case.

July 30, 2009|By Laura Smitherman | Laura Smitherman,laura.smitherman@baltsun.com

The nation's lieutenant governors, more in the limelight in recent months than their second-in-command status usually affords them, are gathering in Maryland this week for a conference to brush up on policy skills.

The National Lieutenant Governors Association is holding its annual meeting through Friday at Baltimore's InterContinental Hotel. About 120 attendees, including two dozen lieutenant governors and others who may not hold that title but are first in the line of succession to governors in states and U.S. territories.

While lieutenant governors are often overshadowed by and traditionally far less powerful than their gubernatorial counterparts, they have been making a splash in the news in past months as several have assumed power in their states.

Some got there by scandal - such as former Illinois Rod Blagojevich's impeachment and New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer's involvement with prostitutes. Others were elevated because of federal appointments - such as President Barack Obama's tapping Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius as Secretary of Health and Human Services. Then there was Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's decision this month to step down in the middle of her term.

"We are very much used to being second in command," Virginia Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling said. "But it's good when our office is in the public's eye because then the public focuses on the importance of the office, and that helps to ensure that whoever they elect, it's someone who is fully capable because that person may one day become governor."

The conference is expected to generate a half-million dollars in economic activity, and Mike Raia, spokesman for Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown, said that corporate sponsors funded the event. Apart from travel costs, Brown and two staffers paid several hundred dollars in conference registration fees.

On Wednesday, three busloads of attendees hopped on buses to Annapolis, where they toured the State House and attended a reception at the Naval Academy. Attendees also plan to tour the port of Baltimore and take in an Orioles baseball game at Camden Yards.

Conference hosts emphasized their goal of sharing ideas and best practices on such topics as health care and education, and on "how to govern during difficult economic times," as Brown put it.

Because, of course, one never knows when one will have to step up.

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