Under legislation passed in 2000, the Senate president also has the ceremonial title of lieutenant governor.
The current state constitution provides that the Senate president is to act as governor when there is a vacancy in that office. However, Tomblin noted Thursday that the constitution does not differentiate between a short-term disability and a long-term vacancy in the governor's office.
Although the proposed constitutional amendment could be on the ballot in 2012, Tomblin said he was not setting any deadlines for the workgroup to come up with its proposal.
"The one thing I want to make sure of is that we do not do this in haste," he said.
Before the amendment could go to the voters, the House and Senate would have to approve a resolution putting it on the ballot. Passage in each house would require a two-thirds majority vote.
House Speaker Rick Thompson, D-Wayne, called Tomblin's proposal, "certainly worthy of consideration by members of the Legislature," and noted that it resembles a proposal by Delegate John Doyle, D-Jefferson, to require the lieutenant governor to serve in a cabinet-level position.
However, Thompson said the proposal does not address the current "constitutional crisis" regarding gubernatorial succession.
"The acting governor's call for the formation of a working group to draft an amendment to create an elected lieutenant governor, one day after the state Supreme Court agreed to hear the case dealing with gubernatorial succession, is a clear recognition of the fact that the current system is not working," Thompson said. "In fact, the acting governor admits this when he says that he's doing this because there is a need for "clarity" in the succession process."
Likewise, state Republican Party Chairman Mike Stuart, who attended Tomblin's announcement Thursday, suggested it was a smokescreen to deflect attention from the Supreme Court case.
"There is a crisis of leadership in West Virginia today," Stuart said, adding, "Since this crisis began, we have been calling consistently for a special election and real leadership."
Reach Phil Kabler at ph...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1220.