Updated March 28 at 2:28pm

Can Rhode Island do without a Lieutenant Governor?

Human resources executive Michael Vittoria says he’s been shocked while attending business meetings in Connecticut to see how far Rhode Island is ahead of its neighbor in preparing for the pending, far-reaching changes in federal health care laws.

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Can Rhode Island do without a Lieutenant Governor?


Human resources executive Michael Vittoria says he’s been shocked while attending business meetings in Connecticut to see how far Rhode Island is ahead of its neighbor in preparing for the pending, far-reaching changes in federal health care laws.

And he credits R.I. Lt. Gov. Elizabeth H. Roberts for that advanced preparation. Stakeholders in the Ocean State have been discussing those changes – including the creation of state-level health insurance exchanges – for months, through a task force of health care providers, businesspeople and consumers, led by Roberts.

“She certainly has used the power of her office and her influence to take hold of a serious problem for businesses,” said Vittoria, vice president of human resources at Sperian Protection Inc. in Smithfield and president of the Business Group on Health. He is also a Roberts campaign contributor.

Others, however, aren’t so sure that the office of lieutenant governor is all that useful.

Grafton “Cap” Willey IV, a longtime member of the Smaller Business Association of New England’s Rhode Island chapter, said that, in the corporate world, the office’s duties likely would have been folded into another position to save money.

“The lieutenant governor really can’t do anything anyway,” he said.

Every four-year election cycle it seems questions arise about whether Rhode Island really needs a lieutenant governor, an office with one primary purpose: Step in when the governor is incapacitated.

But with budget pressures mounting and an unusual case of political maneuvering in which a Republican nominee for the office stepped aside for an independent candidate who was then backed by the GOP, the issue has been getting more scrutiny.

That independent candidate, Robert J. Healey Jr., has vowed to effectively abolish the office if elected, or at least eliminate its six staff members and the office’s $975,000 share of the $7.8 billion state budget. He won’t take a salary, either.

It’s a campaign promise the then-Cool Moose Party candidate made in lieutenant governor races in 2002 and 2006, too, when he was in three-way races with Democrat and Republican nominees.

But with the departure of Republican Heidi Rogers from the race – she said dropped out because she also wanted to abolish the office but didn’t have the name recognition Healey enjoys – Healey said he has the best chance of winning against incumbent Roberts and another independent, Robert. P. Venturini, a public-access TV host.

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ABSOLUTELY! This position and many others can be abolished if this miniature state is ever going to support itself again. Like small business, there is no need for the levels of management, more people should be crossed trained. And, what happen to technology minimizing manpower?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010 | Report this
Small Business

Fortunately, comments, if quoted accurately, by one SBANE member related to the efficacy of the Lieutenant Governor's office, do not reflect the opinions of the majority of the SBANE RI members and guests that were polled recently. In a recent poll taken at the October 13th SBANE RI Breakfast meeting, 74% of the respondents think that the office should remain a separate independent office or be bracketed with the Governor as a ticket. Only 26% of those polled think that the office should be eliminated.

The Lieutenant Governor's office duties are important and defined by statute.

The Small Business Advisory Committee provides the small business community with a seat at the table where small business concerns can be addressed and solutions be discussed. The role of Chair of this committee has been handled admirably by Lieutenant Governor Roberts and by Lieutenant Governor Fogarty before her.

Other statutory duties such as chairing the Long Term Care Coordinating Council and the Emergency Managment Advisory Council provide useful and necessary avenues to address issues and concerns related to Emergency Management and Long Term Care.

Those who propose eliminating the position are probably not aware that, in the U.S., there have been over 20 gubernatorial successions in the last 10 years. Also, those who propose elimination don't seem to offer a valid alternative process for gubernatorial succession in the event a sitting Governor becomes incapacitated or incapable of performing his/her duties.

Through her official capacity as Lieutenant Governor, Elizabeth Roberts has always worked closely with SBANE and has been extremely supportive of the small business community. We consider her office a strong and powerful vehicle for addressing small business issues and problems. To assume that the Lieutenant Governor's office "can't do anything" is dramatically underestimating the impact of her work in small business advocacy, healthcare reform, and emergency management.

Philip M. Papoojian

Vice Chairman

Smaller Business Association of New England (SBANE)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010 | Report this
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