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Massachusetts gov rated most powerful

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://www.stateline.org/live/details/story?contentId=187648 Friday, March 09, 2007 Massachusetts gov rated most powerful By Pamela M. Prah, Stateline.org
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 10, 2007

      Friday, March 09, 2007
      Massachusetts gov rated most powerful
      By Pamela M. Prah, Stateline.org Staff Writer

      Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick doesn’t have the
      Hollywood celebrity of California’s Arnold
      Schwarzenegger or the high profile of New York’s Eliot
      Spitzer, but the newly elected Democrat bested both
      better-known colleagues in a yet-to-be-published
      ranking of governors’ powers.

      Patrick also edged out his peers in Alaska, Maryland,
      New Jersey and West Virginia in the latest power
      rankings of state chief executives by University of
      North Carolina political science professor Thad L.

      Schwarzenegger (R), a former bodybuilder and actor,
      and Spitzer (D), who made a name prosecuting unethical
      business practices on Wall Street, had
      larger-than-life reputations even before they landed
      in the governor's mansion, giving them political
      influence from the get-go. But other governors are
      helped – or hurt – by their own state constitutions
      and laws that influence how much power they wield.

      Beyle, who has ranked the governors since the 1980s,
      looks at tenure, budget authority, appointment and
      veto powers and at whether the governor’s party
      controls the legislature in figuring out which
      governors have the most clout.

      The last factor helped Massachusetts surpass Alaska,
      New Jersey, New York and West Virginia, which all had
      been tied for top billing in 2005.

      Patrick’s victory in the 2006 elections gave Democrats
      control of both the governorship and statehouse for
      the first time in 16 years, and the party has a
      veto-proof, overwhelming majority in both chambers.
      “That was the big difference,” Beyle said.

      Massachusetts also has no term limits for governors.
      Patrick replaced Gov. Mitt Romney (R), who chose not
      to run for a second term and is now making a bid for
      the White House.

      Massachusetts’ top power billing, however, may come as
      small comfort to Patrick, who has been under fire for
      a series of political blunders. The missteps include
      his use of a $46,000 Cadillac DeVille for state
      business and a recent acknowledgment that he made a
      phone call on behalf of a mortgage company to a bank
      that has substantial dealings with the state.

      Maryland and Colorado also boosted their power
      rankings with Democratic gubernatorial wins last fall.
      In Maryland, former Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley
      (D) unseated Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich, the only
      incumbent to lose in last year's mid-term elections.
      In Colorado, former Denver District Attorney Bill
      Ritter bested his Republican challenger, U.S. Rep. Bob
      Beauprez, in a contest to replace Republican Gov. Bill
      Owens, who was forced to step down because of term

      In both states, Democrats retained control of the
      legislatures, giving O’Malley and Ritter more friendly
      legislatures than their Republican predecessors had.

      In Maryland, the governor’s power to hire and fire
      state employees dominated statehouse discussions in
      recent years after Democrats accused Ehrlich of firing
      340 state workers for partisan reasons after he took
      office in 2003. “The Democrats’ interest in the
      [issue] seemed to wane after O’Malley’s election,” The
      Washington Post reported.

      Keon Chi, a senior fellow with the Council of State
      Governments, said one reason New Jersey ranks so high
      in Beyle’s study is that the governor is the only
      elected top state official. He or she appoints the
      secretary of state and the attorney general, positions
      that in many other states are filled by elections. New
      Jersey currently has no lieutenant governor, although
      voters there will elect their first in 2009. “The
      governor of New Jersey is a bit like the president of
      the United States in terms of who he can appoint and
      fire” at the top levels, Chi said..

      Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas (R) with just a two-year term
      in office, a Democratic-controlled Legislature and no
      line-item veto ranks last in terms of institutional
      power, according to Beyle’s rankings.

      New Hampshire, the only other state with a two-year
      stint for governor, moved up from the bottom-five
      ranking it held in 2005 now that New Hampshire Gov.
      John Lynch (D) has a Democratic-controlled statehouse.
      The Democrats’ win in New Hampshire put the party in
      control of both the legislative and executive branches
      for the first time since just after the Civil War,
      giving Lynch more leverage.

      Rounding out Beyle’s list of states where the governor
      has little institutional power are Rhode Island,
      Alabama, Oklahoma, Indiana, Mississippi and North

      In Texas, another state that ranks relatively low on
      the list, Gov. Rick Perry (R) has come under fire for
      using executive orders to make policy. Perry, for
      example, bypassed the Legislature and signed an
      executive order requiring that all 6th-grade girls be
      vaccinated against a sexually transmitted virus that
      causes cervical cancers. Lawmakers are pressing Perry
      to reverse the mandate, and a lawsuit has been filed
      to block it.

      The governor’s inability to make key appointments is
      one of the main reasons the Texas governorship is so
      weak. The governors of Arizona, California,
      Pennsylvania and Tennessee, for example, can appoint
      the top personnel in corrections, education, health,
      transportation, public utilities and welfare, a power
      the Texas governor lacks.

      In another survey, Beyle looks at both the personal as
      well as institutional powers of governors, although
      those findings are incomplete since the job
      performances for governors elected in 2006 are not yet
      available. The top five in that list are: Colorado,
      Nebraska, Arkansas, Connecticut and New York.

      Beyle stresses that while he can calculate the effects
      of budget power and other factors, “you can’t really
      measure personal skills.” Governors with an assertive
      personality and skills in using the bully pulpit can
      overcome any limits imposed on them by a state’s
      constitution and laws, he said. Beyle’s rankings will
      be contained in a forthcoming book, Politics in the
      American States: A Comparative Analysis, published by
      the CQ Press.

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      Contact Pamela M. Prah at pprah@...
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