A proposal is still a few years away from going to residents for a vote, but Pennsylvania is inching closer to ending the practice of having candidates for governor and lieutenant governor run separately for their party's nominations.

It's a change that's long overdue and one both chambers should support again in the next legislative session so that it can proceed to a statewide ballot referendum.

The state Senate in January voted 46-3 in favor of an amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution that would allow each party's gubernatorial nominee to choose his or her running mate for lieutenant governor. The respective political parties would have to approve the choice.

A similar measure was approved in December by the state House by a 130-67 vote.

If ultimately approved, it would make the process for selecting a lieutenant governor candidate similar to the way presidential candidates select a running mate.

The overwhelming votes in favor of the measure are encouraging because both the House and Senate will have to take up the proposal again. Before an amendment to the state constitution can be voted on in a statewide referendum, it has to pass both chambers in two consecutive legislative sessions. That means another vote will be needed in the 2021-2022 session.

If lawmakers move the measure along quickly, a referendum could be approved in time for the 2022 gubernatorial race.

Under the current system, there are separate primary races for candidates for governor and lieutenant governor. The primary winners are then paired together as one ticket in the November election.

It creates the possibility of having a governor and lieutenant governor with vastly different political agendas and philosophies, something supporters of the proposal cite as the reason for the needed change.

The lieutenant governor's position is one with limited official duties. He or she presides over the state Senate, a largely ceremonial role, and chairs the board of pardons and the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Council. Beyond that, any additional projects or directives are up to the governor, so it only makes sense to have someone in the position that has the governor's support.

The proposed amendment to the state constitution has cleared the first hurdle in the long legislative process. Lawmakers should make sure it receives quick passage again next year.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.