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Lieutenant governor

A lieutenant governor is a government official. Historically, the lieutanant governor was the second in command of a British colony subordinate to the governor, however, in former British colonies, the office has evolved in strikingly different ways.

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In Australia, the Lieutenant Governor is the subordinate of the Governor of a state, who serves as acting Governor when necessary -- however, this is an office with almost no practical relevance, and is generally played by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.


In Canada, the lieutenant governor is the representative of the Queen within a province, much as the Governor-General is to the federal government. The Queen's representatives in the three territories are called commissioners.

The lieutenant governor is nominally appointed by the Governor-General but in practise is chosen by the Prime Minister of Canada. The salary of the lieutenant governor is paid for by the federal government rather than by the provincial government.

Like similar officials, the lieutenant governor holds considerable reserve powers which are not in practice used. However, one interesting constitutional question is the role of the lieutenant governor of Quebec in the hypothetical case of the Quebec Legislative Assembly voting to unilaterally secede. Some have argued that in this situation, the lieutenant governor not only could refuse royal assent, but would be duty bound to do so.

New Zealand

The only person to have held the rank of Lieutenant Governor of New Zealand was Captain William Hobson, RN from 1839 - 1841, during which time the New Zealand colony was a dependency of the colony of New South Wales, governed at that time by Sir George Gipps[?]. When New Zealand was designated a crown colony in 1841, Hobson was raised to the rank of Governor, which he held until his death the following year.

United States

In the United States, this office is the second-highest executive office in a state and is nominally subordinate to the governor. The procedure for election of lieutenant governor varies from state to state with some states having the governor and lieutenant governor running as a ticket while others the governor and the lieutenant governor run separately. The latter can cause the governor and lieutenant governor to be from different parties and bitter political rivals.

In the U.S., the duties of a lieutenant governor include replacing the governor if he or she dies or resigns. In most states, the lieutenant governor then becomes governor, with the title and its associated salary, office, and perks. In a few cases, the lieutenant governor instead becomes "acting governor" until a new governor can be elected.

In some states the lieutenant governor is the chairman of one of the upper house of the legislature. In the state of Texas, the lieutenant governor chairs the state senate and by convention and legislative rule, the lieutenant governor has a great deal of influence on the management and passage of legislation. This power and the fact that the lieutenant governor is elected separately from the governor and the fact that much of the executive power of the state government is in elected executive officials and boards rather than in the hands of the governor cause some to consider the lieutenant governor to be more powerful than the governor. This results in the ironic situation that when a lieutenant governor of Texas becomes governor, he or she gains a fancier title, but loses authority.

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