Constitutional Offices

During campaign season, the gubernatorial election tends to overshadow the other constitutional candidates. But as advocates we understand that these offices are fundamental to the operations of the State, and they hold a considerable amount of both statutory and political power. In this article we will explore the functions of the State’s Lt. Governor, Attorney General, Comptroller, Secretary of the State, and the Treasurer.

The Lieutenant Governor interacts with advocates a little more frequently than other constitutional officers. This is because the office is directly tied to several state agency committees, and also presides over the Senate. The Lieutenant Governor is elected alongside the Governor during the general election to ensure that both offices are filled by members of the same party. However, candidates for the two offices are subject to separate primaries.

Once in office, the Lt. Governor serves as President of the Senate. The duties include presiding over the Senate, putting all questions to vote, deciding questions of order, and referring bills to committees. In the event of a tie vote, the Lieutenant Governor may cast a vote to break the tie.

The Lt. Governor also serves as the Chairperson of the state’s Finance Advisory Committee, ACCESS Health CT,  the Governor’s Health Care Cabinet and several other state agency commissions and councils. In the event of the Governor’s departure from office, the Lt. Governor would succeed them.

The Lt. Governor also has a considerable amount of political power. While it is uncommon for the office to split from the Governor’s agenda, the Lt. Governor can and does promote their own policy agenda within the parameters of the office. This typically manifests itself in the work done by the various boards and committees that the LG chairs.

The Attorney General is the chief civil legal officer of the State. Officially established in 1897, the Connecticut Constitution and General Statutes authorize the Attorney General to represent the interests of the people of the State of Connecticut in all civil legal matters involving the state to protect the public interest, and to serve as legal counsel to all state agencies.

The Office of the Attorney General is divided into 15 departments, each designated to represent agencies which provide particular categories of service to State residents. The Attorney General also participates in the legislative process, maintains an active communication with citizens and investigates, in conjunction with the State Auditors, Whistleblower complaints.

Of all the constitutional offices, the Attorney General arguably wields the most power. Their formal opinions carry a considerable amount of weight, at times being asked for opinions during the legislative process. The Attorney General actively participates in both the regulatory and legislative process.

The State Comptroller’s mission is to provide accounting and financial services, to administer employee and retiree benefits, to develop accounting policy and exercise accounting oversight, and to prepare financial reports for state, federal and municipal governments and the public.

State law charges the office to adjust and/or settle all demands against the state not first adjusted and settled by the General Assembly; to prepare all accounting statements relating to the financial condition of the state; to provide for the budgetary and financial reporting needs of the executive branch; to pay all wages and salaries of state employees; and to administer miscellaneous appropriations such as state employee benefits.

The Comptroller’s office is required to report monthlyto the Governor with financial statements for the General Fund and the Transportation Fund. We often rely on these reports to gauge the status of the State’s budget.

The Secretary of the State is designated by the Constitution and General Statutes as the official keeper of a wide array of public records and documents. The office’s departments include business services, elections and voting, state agency regulations, information technology, and management and support services.

The Secretary of the State is responsible for the administration of many aspects of business law including the approval of all certificates of incorporation, organization and dissolution, and registration of trademarks. They also serve as the State’s Commissioner of Elections, charged with implementing election laws and ensuring fair and impartial elections.

The State Treasurer is the chief elected fiscal officer for State government, overseeing a wide range of activities regarding the management of State funds. This includes administration of pension assets, and a short-term investment fun utilized by agencies of municipal and state government.

The Office oversees the Treasury's corporate governance program, which was developed in accordance with its fiduciary duty to prudently manage the State's pension assets. The Treasurer is the principal fiduciary for six State pension and nine State trust funds for teachers, state and municipal employees, as well as academic programs and grants.

Furthermore, the office manages the State’s cash inflows, transactions, and banking relationships. It also oversees debt management, the state-operated workers’ compensation insurance fund (Second Injury Fund), and unclaimed property.

The Treasurer is also an ex-officio member of a number of State boards and commissions. These include the State Bond Commission, Banking Commission, Connecticut Housing Finance Authority, the Connecticut Lottery Board of Directors, and the Teachers’ Retirement Board.

Constitutional officers are commonly elected along party lines. So, we might anticipate that whichever party’s candidate wins the Governor’s race will also see their candidates win the other constitutional offices. However, once elected these offices do have power independent from the Governor even if they don’t often exercise it. For advocates, it is always extremely important to understand the roles and responsibilities of these offices. Even if their statutory powers don’t directly drive policy, their political power can regularly influence it.

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