Being Governor: The View from the Office

Being Governor: The View from the Office

by Thad L. Beyle, Lynn Muchmore

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This book examines the changing role of the governor in our federal system, giving particular attention to recent developments. The expansion of gubernatorial responsibilities into managerial, executive, and intergovernmental positions has taken place at the same time that the governor's role as leader of his political party has declined. In discussing the contemporary role of governors, the editors provide a view of how the office functions on a day-to-day basis.

The editors base their data on personal experience; interviews with governors, former governors, and staff; on -site visits; and responses to a series of nineteen surveys of governors and their staff conducted between 1976 and 1981. The research was undertaken by the Center for Policy Research of the National Governors' Association.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780822378389
Publisher: Duke University Press
Publication date: 10/01/2012
Series: Duke Press policy studies
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 248
File size: 478 KB

Read an Excerpt

Being Governor

The View from the Office

By Thad L. Beyle, Lynn R. Muchmore

Duke University Press

Copyright © 1983 Duke University Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8223-0506-4


Governors in the American Federal System

Thad L. Beyle and Lynn R. Muchmore

The center of the state system, and its chief proponent in the eyes of the people, is the governor. The governor's prestige and his power to move people and ideas within his state are the strongest weapon s in each state's arsenal. The future of the American system could well be determined by his performance.

This was the agenda and the challenge Terry Sanford issued to governors and states in 1967. Sanford cited ten principles that should by followed in revitalizing the states and their governorships: make governors the chief executives in fact; revise state constitutions; reduce constraints on gubernatorial tenure; provide governors more budgetary power; allow governors to become chief planners; grant governors greater reorganization authority; reduce separately elected executive officials and eliminate independent boards and commissions; reduce the stultifying effects of some aspects of the state personnel systems; provide more adequate staff for governors; and open governors' offices to new ideas and to the experiences of other states and governors.

By the late 1970s political scientist Larry Sabato was able to report: "Within the last fifteen years, there has been a virtual reform in state government. In most of the states as a result, the governor is now truly the master of his own house, not just the father figure."

Many of the efforts at reform were based on the view that the state government performance is critical to an effective federal government system. Further, like Sanford, most contend the governorship is the focal point and the leader of each state. While these were not predominant views prior to the 1960s, the activities and accomplishments of the last two decades have brought more support to them.

Recent Changes and Reforms in States

The changes that have occurred in the states are significant and varied. They range from structural, to fiscal, to programmatic, to managerial, to intergovernmental. Several of these aspects have direct relevance to the governorship: constitutional revision, reorganization, cabinet systems, functional reorganizations.

Constitutional Revision. Beginning in 1959 with the creation of the new states of Alaska and Hawaii, and continuing with the legislative reapportionment cases of the sixties, a surge of constitutional revision has occurred. Excluding those two new states, "between 1965 and 1976, new constitutions became effective in nine states: Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Montana, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Louisiana, and Georgia. Since then, no state has adopted a new constitution although numerous states have amended their constitutions or plan to hold constitutional conventions". Several other states have had revisions proposals defeated at the polls. As political scientist Mavis Mann Reeves has noted, however, "diligence was frequently rewarded ... as portions of the rejected documents were submitted piecemeal by the legislature and adopted. These frequently revised entire articles and contained major reforms." The reforms have generally aimed at modernizing these basic documents, removing outmoded constraints on governors and legislatures and providing a more flexible framework for state government.

Reorganization. Between 1965 and 1977, twenty-one states engaged in comprehensive reorganization, and nearly every state participated in partial reform. As the Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (ACIR) noted:

no other period in history has witnessed such intense activity. The reorganization activity that began during the 1960's resulted from pressures on the states to establish the policy, organization and fiscal machinery to enable them to meet the demands made by an increasingly urban population. They also sought to rationalize functional responsibilities, to create clearer lines of authority, and to increase accountability.

Nine of the states shoved toward the traditional model "in which the reduction of the number of agencies is accomplished to some degree within the existing pattern of agencies headed by elected officers and boards and commissions"; four states moved toward the cabinet model, "whereby heads of reorganized departments are all appointed by and responsible to the Governor"; three states moved toward the secretary-coordinator model, "in which the structure and authority of agencies is unchanged and the Secretaries (appointed by the Governor) have primarily a coordinating function"; and, the five other reorganizing states' adopted combinations of these models. In every case, the executive branch was consolidated to a certain degree as was the power of the governor.

Cabinet System. There has been an increase in the number of states using a cabinet system over the last decade from 26 in 1969 to 40 as of 1982. These cabinets generally are coordinating bodies organized either in whole, or as subcabinets with specific functional responsibilities. However, while few states have provided these cabinets with policy-making authority, they do often serve as "an effective problem-solving group involved both in identifying priority issues and areas, and in developing new ideas and approaches to executive branch operations ... [especially] for issues that cut across departmental lines." Most importantly it does afford "the governor the opportunity to interact directly with key executive branch officials."

Functional Reorganization. The "copy-cat" concept or "decision by emulation" is a well recognized phenomenon in the states. Jack Walker calls this "a national system of emulation and competition" among the states, which often has a regional base. "The rule of thumb [state decision makers] employ might be formally stated as follows: look for an analogy between the situation you are dealing with and some other situation, perhaps in some other state, where the problem has been successfully resolved."

For example, since 1959, thirty-eight states have created state Departments of Transportation (DOT), emulating Hawaii (1959) and California (1960) and the creation of a federal DOT (1966). These departments normally contain highways and transit with aeronautics, waterways, regulation, railroads, highway patrol, motor vehicles, and tolls being added, depending on the state and the concept of the DOT in that state.

In the area of environment, beginning with Minnesota and Wisconsin (1967) and the creation of the federal Environmental Protection Agency (1970), thirty-two states had reorganized their environmental activities into several distinct models by 1974. And since 1975, ten states have created Departments of Energy.

One of the more recent trends in functional consolidation is in human services where states have increasingly attempted to consolidate such related activities "as public assistance and social services, health, mental health, mental retardation, corrections, youth institutions, vocational rehabilitation, and employment security." There are now twenty-five states with some variant of a comprehensive human services agency or department, but in this area the main problem concerns which activities should be included in a comprehensive agency.

The goal in functional reorganization is to bring as many functionally related agencies into one organization as is feasible. This will reduce interdepartmental frictions and hassles, allow for more coherent planning, coordination and implementation of effort.

All in all, these structural changes add up to more modern structures of government over which the governor is to perform his or her roles.

Changes in the Governorship

Sabato's recent review of the American governorship begins with this assessment of the office:

Once parochial officers whose concerns rarely extended beyond the boundaries of their home states and whose responsibilities were often slight within the states, governors have gained major new powers that have increased their influence in national as well as state councils. Once maligned foes of the national and local governments, governors have become skilled negotiators and, importantly, often crucial coordinators at both levels. Once ill prepared to govern and less prepared to lead, governors have welcomed a new breed of vigorous, incisive, and thoroughly trained leaders into their ranks. The implications of all changes for the federal system, its constituent parts, and the nation as a whole are not insignificant.

Sabato talked about the personal qualities of the governors also. They "are much younger, better educated than ever, and more thoroughly trained for the specific responsibilities of the governorship." And he indicated that with the changes already noted in the structure and processes of state governments, "the new governors are in a position to use their appreciable talents and to work relatively unhindered."

As far as the governorships themselves, there have been significant changes in their powers over the past few years:

Length of Terms. Between 1955 and 1980, the number of governors running for and serving four year terms rose from twenty-nine to forty-six. Only Arkansas, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont retain two-year terms. This allows governors to spend less time on reelection politics and more on policy and administration.

Number of Terms Possible. Over the twenty-five year period the number of governors precluded from succeeding themselves in a second term dropped from seventeen to four, while the number who could serve two consecutive terms increased from six to twenty-three. The number of states allowing unlimited terms is now twenty-two. This allows for greater continuity from program and policy initiation to implementation.

Budgetary Power. The number of states giving the governor sole budget-making power rose from forty-two to forty-seven between 1955 and 1980. Further, as Kenneth Howard has observed:

Governors are being consulted and given more information about federal grants, their approval may be necessary before an agency may apply for a grant, and their approval is increasingly being required for some other program matters; consolidation among federal categorical grants is taking place so that supported agencies can less readily obtain money independently of the governor; additional responsibilities and authority for meeting pressing domestic problems are devolving upon the states; budgetary innovations are being initiated that can strengthen a governor's participation in these matters.

This allows governors more control over the basic policy document of state government, the state budget, and the process by which it is developed.

Appointment Power. There is a mixed picture on what has occurred vis-avis the power of the governors to appoint "their" people to positions in state government. At one level, this ability has been enhanced by the series of reorganizations discussed earlier. There are fewer Boards and Commissions and other state officials appointing administrators and other personnel in those states with reorganized structures. However, the continuing impact of civil service, merit or other personnel systems has been to reduce the ability of governors to impact on the bureaucracy. In a series of interviews with outgoing governors in the late 1970s, most governors cited this as a nuisance they faced during their tenure. As the civil service-professionalism drive (often encouraged under federal grant-in-aid programs) pushes upwards into the realm of policy, the governors find their abilities constricted and must take steps to overcome this.

Separately Elected Offices. The trend over the past decade has been to reduce the number of separately elected state officials who can and often do compete with governors in their policy domains. This is usually, although not necessarily, an outcome of a major state reorganization. Despite the general trend, the long ballot is still alive and healthy as evidenced by the number of states still electing secretaries of state (36), treasurers (38), attorneys general (43), auditors (25), and secretaries of agriculture (13), insurance (9) and labor (5). Beginning with New York in 1953, the number of states which have the governor and lieutenant governor running as a team has grown to 21 at the latest count. In each case where a separately elected office is eliminated, and appointment by the governor substituted, a separate political constituency is removed and the governor gains more appointive and thereby more administrative and policy power. Again all these changes are in the direction of providing governors and their staffs with greater capacity and flexibility. In conjunction with the structural changes in state government noted earlier, the changes provide most governors with more adequate structures and tools with which to work in fulfilling their roles.

Changing Roles for Governors

However, the greater changes in the decade may be in the very definition of gubernatorial roles which governors are expected to perform. The old litany of roles had the governor as ceremonial head of state, chief legislator, chief administrator, head of the party and chief legal officer. These traditional roles still hold to a certain degree although some have become even more significant (chief legislator) and others less (head of party). Of greater importance is the focusing of additional roles and responsibilities on the governorship in the context of state government's position in the federal system.

While the changes in structures and tools allowed governors to be better equipped for office responsibilities, it is the increase in office responsibilities which appear to be most important and indeed may have been critical to the arguments for the structural changes. Further, turning Sabato's assessment on its head, it may be that the increased responsibilities of the American governorshipattracted, possibly even necessitated, the "new breed of vigorous, incisive, and thoroughly trained" governors that he found in his survey.

When one compares the gubernatorial roles most typical of the 1950s with the profiles that emerged during the 1960s and matured during the following decade, three themes become significant.

The first theme is the difference in the political environment in which the governors function. The influence of the traditional political party apparatus is no longer perceived as significant. Governors no longer take themselves seriously as "titular head of the party" in their state. Credentials established through party affiliation and leadership are insufficient as a basis for seeking office. Successful candidacy depends upon the ability to forge alliances among interest groups whose membership rarely respects party lines and on the complicated process of creating the proper image of leadership through the media directly to the voters. Thus, the parties are no longer a required vehicle for transportation into office.

Some consequences:

1. Loss of the party as an instrument of governance and discipline; particularly important in dealings with the legislature;

2. The withering of patronage at the sub-policy level; replaced by a more complex patronage requirement at the policy level (needed to maintain the support of special interest alliances);

3. Greater consciousness of issues, because the interest groups are generally formed around specific issues;

4. Concentration on media related activities and approaches;

5. Somewhat less stability in the political support base;

6. Less time spent on traditional party activities; and

7. Loss of the party framework as a mode within which to deal with the Congress and the President.

The second theme is the appearance and growth of the governor as a principal in the arena of federal-state relations. The stream of grants-in-aid created a new arena of conflict and cooperation that involves the federal executive branch and the state executive branch, with the Congress and the state legislatures as bystanders. In this arena, the old notion that states are represented at the federal level by senators and congressmen is inadequate. Major policy decisions embedded within the regulations and guidelines issued by federal mission agencies have been virtually impervious to congressional oversight, and the politics of policy played out within the executive branch.

This created a new role for the governor as chief executive, one in which he appeared as the chief lobbyist for his own state government. As the state governments were being used by the federal government as a delivery system for programs whose goals were nationally derived, the governors began to assert a much more strident opinion on the wisdom of particular federal policies and administrative practices especially when national goals and state goals were not parallel.

Some consequences:

1. Creation of Washington offices for governors and states;

2. Enhancing the lobbying capacity of the National Governors' Association in Washington;


Excerpted from Being Governor by Thad L. Beyle, Lynn R. Muchmore. Copyright © 1983 Duke University Press. Excerpted by permission of Duke University Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

List of Tables vii

Preface ix

Introduction 3

I. The Setting

1. Governors in the American Federal System 12

II. Being Governor

2. Governors' views on Being Governor 22

3. A Day in the Life of a Governor 32

III. The Political Role

4. The Governor as Party Leader 44

5. The Governor and the Public 52

6. Governors and Ethics 67

IV. The Managerial Role

7. The Governor as Manager 78

8. The Political Nature of the Governor as Manager 85

9. Governor's Views on Management 93

10. Appointment Power: Does It Belong to the Governor? 102

11. The Gubernatorial Appointment Power: Too Much of a Good Thing? 116

V. The Legislative Role

12. The Governor and the State Legislature 124

13. The Governor as Chief Legislator 131

14. Governors and Lieutenant Governors 144

VI. The Structural Role

15. Governors' Offices: Variations on Common Themes 158

16. Planning and Budgeting Offices: On Their Relevance to Gubernatorial Decisions 174

17. Science Advice to Governors: Non-Politics in the Policy Process 182

18. Governors and Intergovernmental Relations: Middlemen in the Federal System 192

Conclusion 206

Appendix A: Selected Bibliography on the Governorship 209

Appendix B: Selected Data on Governors and State Executive Systems 212

Notes 219

Index 235

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