Second-in-command Dardenne ‘never’ notified
“The Governor remains the Governor wherever he is.” SHANNON BATES, Jindal’s press secretary
When Gov. Bobby Jindal is traveling out of state, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne technically becomes governor.
But Dardenne never knows when that happens because Jindal isn’t sharing his travel schedule with him.
Jindal has been out-of-state more than 25 percent of the time since May campaigning for Republican presumptive presidential nominee Mitt Romney, raising money for GOP causes and candidates, and participating in conferences.
From May 3 through Thursday, Jindal has traveled to New Jersey, Alabama, Oklahoma, North Carolina, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Virginia, Illinois, West Virginia, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, D.C., Ohio, Pennsylvania and Washington state. He was gone 20 days during the 73-day period, according to Governor’s Office news releases.
Louisiana faced major budget balancing woes during the 2012 legislative session, which ended June 4. Fiscal problems continue to dominate state government because of a congressional decision last month that reduced by nearly $860 million for Medicaid that Jindal had expected to balance the state’s budget.
In response to a written question posed to the governor about why he did not notify Dardenne when he leaves Louisiana, Shannon Bates, Jindal’s press secretary, replied in an email: “The press office sends a note out to press when the Governor leaves the state. The Governor remains the Governor wherever he is.”
Article IV, Section 19 of the Louisiana Constitution states: “When the governor is temporarily absent from the state, the lieutenant governor shall act as governor.”
“Since I’ve been lieutenant governor, I’ve never received any notification that he was traveling out-of-state,” said Dardenne, who has been in the job since late 2010. “I’m not whining about this or kicking and screaming. It’s in response to your inquiry” about days Jindal has been out-of-state.
“From a policy and protocol standpoint, it would be nice to know in case I need to be called into service,” Dardenne said.
Not notifying the lieutenant governor is a departure from past governors’ practice.
Former Govs. Kathleen Blanco and Mike Foster said they informed the lieutenant governors who served during their terms when they left the state.
“It’s just good for the lieutenant governor to have that conscious level of awareness,” Blanco said Thursday.
“The lieutenant governor would not be making big decisions,” she said.
Blanco was both recipient of the notices from Foster when she served as lieutenant governor and issuer of them later as governor with Mitch Landrieu as lieutenant governor.
“We were aware of it and we always did it,” Foster said Thursday. “We did it out of courtesy.” Foster said there weren’t many notifications because of his infrequent out-of-state travel.
Foster added: “In this day of communication it really doesn’t make much difference where you are.”
Blanco said the notice is important because “technically the lieutenant governor becomes the governor. On a side note — though I never collected it — the lieutenant governor is supposed to be paid at the same salary level (as the governor during the time),” Blanco said.
When the terrorist attacks happened on Sept. 11, 2001, then-Gov. Foster was out of state attending a Southern Governors’ Association conference. Blanco was lieutenant governor at the time.
“Everyone was apprehensive,” Blanco recalled, “There was a high level of anxiety. I felt very strongly that the people of Louisiana needed to know that we were going to be OK. Mike couldn’t get back. He was working very hard. He got caught in circumstances.”
Both Blanco and Dardenne said they remember times when governors and lieutenant governors took it a step further when both were going to be out of state and notified the third-ranking state official — the secretary of state — in case something happened.
Dardenne said Landrieu called him once when he was secretary of state to tell him both Blanco and he would be traveling outside Louisiana at the same time.
Blanco recalls it happening when both she and Foster were going to be gone. “I was on the way to the airport. I picked up the phone and called (Secretary of State) Fox McKeithen and said ‘By the way, you are going to be governor,’ ” Blanco said.