With WA lieutenant governor in seminary school, lawmakers move to fill his legislative duties

Oct 14, 2020, 2:44 PM
Lieutenant Governor Cyrus Habib...
Gov. Jay Inslee and Lieutenant Governor Cyrus Habib. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

On Tuesday, it was revealed that Washington Lieutenant Governor Cyrus Habib has been in seminary school in California since September, leaving many to wonder what duties he’s able to perform as his term winds to a close.

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Habib had announced earlier in 2020 that he wouldn’t be seeking a new term as lieutenant governor to join the Jesuits. What’s been unclear in the time since has been whether he planned to serve out the remainder of his term before committing to the Jesuits full time.

According to the Associated Press, his office confirmed Tuesday that Habib stopped drawing his lieutenant governor salary on Sept. 1, but is still technically serving in the role. He is also said to be “in regular phone contact with the office and approves any documents that go out under his signature.”

Gov. Jay Inslee partially addressed the revelation during a Tuesday press conference, stating that he himself is “not fully aware” of Habib’s activities, but at the same time is “unaware of responsibilities that are not being conducted.”

With the state’s Republican lawmakers calling for a special legislative session to address the ongoing COVID crisis, that would potentially necessitate Habib’s presence, given that the lieutenant governor also serves as the presiding officer of the state Senate. Reports claim that the Senate was not previously notified of Habib’s departure to seminary school.

“I would have thought he would have notified the Senate of his position and availability, so that’s surprising to me if that’s the case,” Inslee noted. “What I’ve been advised is that the Senate has provisions that should be able to have that not be a problem.”

“I will be making some inquiries about this to make sure there’s a workable way forward,” he added, pointing out that “given the makeup of the Legislature,” Habib also wouldn’t likely be needed to cast any tiebreaking votes on legislation as part of his role.

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If a special legislative session does get called and Habib is unable to preside, that role would default to Sen. Karen Keiser, the president pro tempore of the Senate.

Democrats Denny Heck and Marko Liias are currently running to replace Habib. Heck served in Congress beginning in 2013, before announcing his retirement in December of 2019. Prior to that, he served for a decade in the Washington State House of Representatives. Liias also served in the state House between 2008 and 2013, before assuming a role in the state Senate in 2014.

You can learn about Liias and Heck from a Monday debate hosted by the League of Women Voters here.

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With WA lieutenant governor in seminary school, lawmakers move to fill his legislative duties