Reynolds has constitutional authority to appoint lieutenant

The Iowa state constitution is on display in Secretary of State Paul Pate's office in the Iowa State House on Thur. Mar 11, 2016. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
The Iowa state constitution is on display in Secretary of State Paul Pate's office in the Iowa State House on Thur. Mar 11, 2016. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

The law of Iowa is definite: when Lt. Governor Reynolds succeeds to the Governorship, she has the statutory power to appoint a new Lieutenant Governor. That’s because the Lt. Governor’s office will be vacant — by law she absolutely cannot hold both offices at the same time.

Attorney General Miller’s opinion that the offices “essentially merge,” that she will be both Governor and Lt. Governor at the same time, and therefore there is no Lt. Governorship vacancy that she can fill by appointment, is absurd.

Article IV, section 14 of the Iowa Constitution prohibits an individual from holding the Governorship of Iowa and any other office at the same time. That was enacted to prevent a Governor from also serving as a U.S. Senator at the same time, for instance.

Article IV allows that one person can be Governor and hold another office at the same time if it is expressly stated and permitted in the Constitution.

But there is not one word in Iowa’s Constitution to support Miller’s latest idea that “those two offices essentially merge” upon succession. Essentially? When the Constitution requires “express” permission to hold two offices at the same time? Unbelievable.

The word “merge” was well understood by past legislators and Governors of both political parties who worked together since the 1800s to amend our Constitution and statutes to provide for a smooth transition of power in times like this. If they had wanted to merge those two offices into one at succession, they would have done so. Of course, they did not.

It is ridiculous to argue Kim Reynolds will be Governor and she’ll be Lt. Governor, too. At the same time! Are you kidding me? She gets both salaries? Even that’s against the law. If she hasn’t vacated the office of Lt. Governor, who’s sitting in there? If nobody is there, it looks to me like she vacated it when she moved into Branstad’s office.


Who could even argue about these things? No wonder it took 23 pages. I’m glad my taxes went for legal work this good! (I’m kidding about that last one)

The effect of Miller’s opinion, if it’s followed, will be to deny Gov. Reynolds a Lieutenant Governor. That is absurd, too. The Constitution doesn’t permit it.

That’s because Iowa’s Constitution and laws on succession were not intended to trip up, hold down, or limit the power of a new Governor. Just the opposite — both parties agreed a long time ago that you’ve got to give a new Governor the full power and authority to get on with the business of running the state. Serious times like a succession don’t deserve partisan gamesmanship.

And if those same Iowans since the 1800s didn’t think the state needed both a Governor and a Lieutenant Governor, we wouldn’t have both today. Tom Miller’s opinion is that we won’t have both when Lt. Governor Reynolds becomes Governor. I think he’s dead wrong. This isn’t a partisan issue for me. Something as serious as succession should be as nonpartisan as it gets.

• James A. Albert is a law professor at Drake University Law School and Chairman of the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board.



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