The Lieutenant Governor is a member of the executive branch but also plays the official role of President of the Senate. The Lieutenant Governor has some executive responsibilities, such as serving as acting governor when the Governor is out of the state, and is the first in the line of succession should the Governor be unable to perform his or her duties.
The Lieutenant Governor's primary powers lie in the office's authority and influence in the legislature. The Lieutenant Governor appoints the committees of the Senate, a considerable power since committees generally control specific policy areas, and also assigns bills to specific Senate committees. Generally, the various committees have responsibility over specific areas of public policy. But the rules for assignment to committee are weak enough that they give the Lieutenant Governor considerable discretion in assigning bills to committee.
The Lieutenant Governor also casts the deciding vote in case of a tie, and serves as chairman of the Legislative Budget Board and the Legislative Council. He or she is vice-chairman of the Legislative Audit Committee and the Legislative Education Board, and when the Legislative Redistricting Board convenes (if the legislature is unable to approve a redistricting plan for both houses), the Lieutenant Governor serves as one of the five members. These official roles, coupled with the legislative influence of the office, make the Lieutenant Governorship significantly different from the office that seems a natural comparison. View a table comparing powers of number two executives.
The Lieutenant Governor has exerted growing influence in lawmaking and in administration and public policy since World War II. This may result partly from two changes to the office over the course of the 20th century.
First, the length of the term of office was constitutionally extended from two to four years beginning with the election of 1974. Second, lieutenant governors have served ever more numerous terms since the 1890s. Until then, it was customary for lieutenant governors not to seek reelection to a second term. Over the next few decades, two different lieutenant governors were elected to third terms. And, in the post-World War II period, Ben Ramsey was elected to a record six terms (1951-1961) and Bill Hobby was elected to five terms (1973-1991). Hobby actually served more years than Ramsey because four of his five terms were for four years. The increased longevity in office can significantly increase the informal influence and legislative expertise of lieutenant governors, and enables them to consolidate their control over the committees. Most recently, the greater intensity of electoral competition for the office of Lieutenant Governor between the two major parties may work against the tendency toward reelection.
The current lieutenant governor, Republican David Dewhurst, was first elected in 2002, when he defeated former Comptroller John Sharp. Dewhurst was reelected in 2006 with 58 percent of the vote and again in 2010 with 62% of the vote.