Griffin pushing to give up some power as state’s No. 2
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin says he wants to use the state’s No. 2 post to promote the agenda of fellow Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson, and is urging lawmakers to scale back some of his office’s powers.
Sworn in last week, Griffin said he’s working with lawmakers on a proposed constitutional amendment to put before voters next year that would allow the governor to remain in charge when he’s out of the state. He calls the current provision an outdated practice that’s no longer necessary since technology allows the governor to stay connected.
“When the president of the United States goes to China, he’s still the president of the United States. Whereas, if our governor goes to Memphis to eat or to go to a meeting or whatever, he’s no longer the governor,” Griffin said in an interview in his office last week. “That just doesn’t make sense.”
Griffin’s support for scaling back his own power comes as lawmakers weigh whether to ask voters to eliminate the position altogether. Two state senators have said they will introduce legislation to abolish the office, an idea Griffin has opposed. He said allowing the governor to remain in charge when out of state doesn’t hurt that argument.
“I have never believed that the highest and the best use of this office is the transfer of power to the lieutenant governor when the governor goes to Memphis,” he said. “I have always believed the power of this office lies in being able to advocate as an additional statewide elected official who can focus on certain parts of government and stay focused on a particular project.”
The former congressman, who was elected in November, said he’s still crafting a legislative package for this year’s session but is focusing immediately on helping Hutchinson’s top priorities. That includes a $102 million income tax cut for the middle class, which is expected to go before a Senate committee as early as Wednesday.
“I believe in the governor’s agenda, and I want to help it become reality any way that I can,” Griffin said.
Griffin has also spoken out about the Little Rock School District, urging a state takeover of the district. The board plans to meet Jan. 28 to discuss whether to intervene in the district, which has six schools on the academic distress list. He has also called for changing state law to give the state flexibility to control districts for longer than five years if they’re not improving.
“I think the district has demonstrated through decades of failure in many ways that it needs to be taken over,” Griffin said. “Secondarily, I certainly will help legislators and advocate for ... other changes that can make sure that when it is turned back, it is ready to be turned back and not just based on the calendar.”
Griffin, however, isn’t wading publicly yet into the fight over the future of the state’s compromise Medicaid expansion. He said he’s waiting to see what Hutchinson will announce in a speech later this week on the program and the future of health care in the state.
Griffin said he’ll soon announce a communications job that he’ll work outside of the part-time lieutenant governor’s position. He said it won’t involve government affairs and he won’t be practicing law outside serving in the Army Reserves Judge Advocates Corps.
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