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Idaho's 2013 Legislature convened in Boise on January 7. We've put together a guide to the session, including ways to contact your lawmaker, how to get involved, and comprehensive information about the people elected to office.

When Idaho's Governor Is In Surgery, Who Is In Charge?

Office of Lieutenant Governor Brad Little
Lt. Gov. Brad Little usually presides over the Idaho Senate, but on Tuesday he'll be filling in for Gov. Otter.

Tuesday, Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter is having surgery to get his left hip resurfaced. From the time Otter goes into the hospital to when he comes out from his anesthesia, Lt. Gov. Brad Little will be Idaho's acting governor.

It's something Little is pretty accustomed to; it happens on a regular basis. Any time the sitting governor is out of the state or incapacitated, the lieutenant governor steps in as the top official, even if it's just for an hour or two.

Article IV of Idaho's Constitution sets up the rules:

In case of the failure to qualify, the impeachment, or conviction of treason, felony, or other infamous crime of the governor, or his death, removal from office, resignation, absence from the state, or inability to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the powers, duties and emoluments of the office for the residue of the term, or until the disability shall cease, shall devolve upon the lieutenant governor.

The "emoluments" part of the clause means Little receives Otter's pay for the time he's in charge of the state. There's one other perk he's entitled as governor.

"Well it's a big deal -- I get to park in his parking spot," Little jokes.

Since Otter's surgery has been scheduled Little says his office received an official letter letting him know the time and date of his upcoming gubernatorial duties. He says that's standard practice, but sometimes the temporary transfer of power is more spontaneous.

"One time the Governor went to a rodeo in Oregon on a Sunday afternoon," says Little. "[My] phone rang and he says, 'I'm getting ready to cross the bridge, [so] you're governor -- I'll be back in a little bit.'"

Despite having executive powers, Little says he doesn't plan on doing anything out of the ordinary during his time as governor this Tuesday.

"It's not like I'm going to invade Adrienne, Ore.," he laughs.

But as much as he can joke about it, Little says he takes the role seriously. Even though Otter will only be in the hospital for several hours on Tuesday, he'll be recuperating from his surgery at home for two to three weeks -- when the legislative session will be at full tilt.

"The governor's going to stay in contact with legislative leadership and legislators, but if someone physically wants to talk to him they can talk to me and I'll relay that to him," Little says.

He says there have been some instances where he's signed bills into law while Otter's been away. Little says the other change is that Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill will preside Tuesday over the chamber. That's a role the lieutenant governor usually fills.

Find reporter Frankie Barnhill on Twitter @FABarnhill

Copyright 2015 Boise State Public Radio

Frankie Barnhill was the Senior Producer of Idaho Matters, Boise State Public Radio's daily show and podcast.

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