California’s economy is in the toilet. The budget stands in perpetual crisis. The entire governing system doesn’t work.

Amidst the Bladerunner-style wreckage of our state government, the legislature is making time for hearings on filling the job of the lieutenant governor for the next 10 months.

Why bother?

This is the question that was raised, but never really answered, Tuesday afternoon as State Senator Abel Maldonado made the case for his own confirmation during a press conference call.

Maldonado is a capable senator, who has proven himself adept at using his leverage as a moderate Republican in the 2/3 system to push his priorities. I asked him if taking the relatively powerless job of lieutenant governor might be a demotion, offering less power and demotion than his current gig. He replied: “I don’t do this for power. I do this for people,” which was an interesting thing to hear from a politician (a species that lives to enhance its power) but didn’t really answer the question.

Maldonado himself made a good show of talking about how he wanted to use the lieutenant governorship as a platform for being the jobs czar for the state, intervening to cut red tape for business. But he also seemed less than enthusiastic about his own chances—he pointedly asked only for a fair hearing, and only managed to say he hoped for a vote on his nomination (hardly a sure thing) after repeated questioning from the press.

He even argued that, in the future, the lieutenant governor should run on the same ticket as the governor. That’s not a terrible idea; an even better idea would be to eliminate the position all together.

Maldonado dodged various questions about the politics of the confirmation. Among these were queries about which party might be likely to give him more votes and whether his successor in the Senate, in the event he is confirmed, would be a Democrat or Republican. (And for those who might wonder, I didn’t get the chance to ask him about my own candidacy for the position, which envisions reinventing the lieutenant governorship as a sinecure for underemployed journalists.)

He showed more passion in arguing for the open, or top two primary he’s championed, and which appears on this June’s ballot, than on the specific duties of the lieutenant governor.

By the end of the call, I wondered if we weren’t wasting everybody’s time, including Abel Maldonado’s.