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Mike Jackson: The TT Interview

The president pro tempore of the Texas Senate on what it was like to be second in line to run the Lone Star State when Gov. Rick Perry was out on the campaign trail.

Sen. Mike Jackson R-La Porte on last regular day of the 82nd legislative session May 30th, 2011

By state Sen. Mike Jackson’s count, he has been the acting governor of the State of Texas for (at least portions of) 15 days in the last year.

As president pro tempore of the Texas Senate, the La Porte Republican is second in line for the acting governorship — behind Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst — when Gov. Rick Perry is not around.

The acting governor of Texas must be in the state. Campaigning for president, Perry spent most of his time in Iowa in recent weeks. A slew of Texas lawmakers, including Dewhurst, joined him there recently.

So, in the final days of 2011 and the first few days of 2012, Jackson has been in charge.

Jackson will soon be relieved of that responsibility, though. After a fifth-place finish in Iowa, Perry said he's returning to the state to assess the future of his presidential bid.

Jackson will turn his attention to his own ongoing campaign to represent the newly formed 36th Congressional District, but he says he will be ready to serve as acting governor anytime he’s called upon.

“I hope my record reflects that we had no problems while I was acting governor of the state of Texas,” he said.

Jackson talked to the Tribune on Tuesday about the (fairly low-stakes) trials and tribulations of the job and his record as acting governor. The following is an edited transcript.

TT: How are you notified that you will be acting governor?

Jackson: I get a letter from the lieutenant governor’s staff that states — pursuant to whatever article of the Constitution — that with Perry and Dewhurst both being out of the state, I’ll be acting governor. It gives me an approximate time and date for the beginning and then an end date for what they know at the time.

TT: What do you have to do?

Jackson: I was talking to somebody today and said, “No, I don’t have to go to Austin and sit in a big chair or hold a gavel in my hand or anything.” 

We’re asked to simply be available. Number one, make sure you’re going to be in the state and be available and can be contacted if needed.

So, basically the staffs from both the governor’s and the lieutenant governor’s office would — if they needed me to perform any kind of a duty that needed to be done in the time frame where they were both out of the state — contact me and we’d make arrangements to take care of whatever that may be.

TT: Were you tempted to call a special session and tackle any big issues?

Jackson:  (Laughs) Not a whole lot of people knew that I was acting governor. Some that did were asking for appointments and things like that.

I didn’t think I wanted to call a special session. If we wanted to take any big action like that, I think Dewhurst or Perry would probably be back in the state very quickly.

TT: Looking back over your recent stint, were there any highlights?

Jackson: It’s been totally uneventful over the holiday season.

After the special session, I was briefed on what goes on in the event an execution was going to take place. I’d be the final person to have the ability to give a stay.

To be that person to be contacted in that procedure that goes on is a pretty sobering experience, and I hope I don’t have to go through that.

TT: Have you given any thought to what you would do if you found yourself in that situation?

Jackson: Well, we have a criminal justice system, and the people on death row have gone through appeals and have exhausted all of their chances to do that. But it would entirely depend on the circumstances that were there, I think.

TT: Is there anything you would do differently?

Jackson: I don’t think so. I’m trying to be responsible and take care of the state’s business if I’m needed to perform anything. I think our state’s in pretty good shape.

When we’re not in session, we’ve got a bunch of great people and state employees and staff people for the governor and the lieutenant governor, and I trust in their ability to take care of business. In the event that it would require my participation, I’d be there to take care of it.

TT: Do you know when your next stint as acting governor might be?

Jackson: I do not. You know, you’re the third person in line, and whether or not you perform that duty is dependent upon two other people and their schedules.

When they do end up where they’re both out of the state, we get hopefully a week’s notice, but it could be 24-hour notice.

It’s being available. You’re there in the event you’re needed, and if not, well, that works out even better.

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