116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
State Sen. Robby Smith, R-Davenport, a lawmaker known for this efforts to make it harder to vote in Iowa, is taking aim at another democratic institution — checks and balances.
A bill sponsored by Smith, Senate File 2263, would remove the requirement for Senate confirmation for gubernatorial appointments to 29 state board and commissions. The list includes the Iowa Public Information Board, which investigates violations of government transparency laws, The Iowa Civil Rights Commission, the Council on Human Services, the School Budget Review Committee, the Commission on Judicial Qualifications and the Board of Corrections.
The bill was approved by the Senate Tuesday 33-15, with 31 Republicans and two Democrats, Sens. Herman Quirmbach of Ames and Joe Bolkcom of Iowa City, voting yes.
Under current law, appointees must be confirmed by a two-thirds vote of the 50-member Senate, a process that allows lawmakers to consider appointees and gives the minority party a rare role in decision-making.
Under the bill, appointees could be subject to Senate vote if 26 senators petition for it. But that basically means only the majority party can call for a vote on an appointee.
Smith insists he’s simply trying to streamline the appointment process. But it looks more like a political power grab by a party that figures a Republican will be in the governor’s office for the foreseeable future. Add this to the Republican Legislature’s reluctance to provide even modest oversight of executive branch actions and the result is an already powerful gubernatorial office that would be even more powerful and face even less scrutiny. It’s a disturbing trend.
The appointment process isn’t broken. It’s worked well. Rarely do appointees fail to be confirmed, but it’s still been a good check the executive branch’s broad appointment authority.
But we’ve become used to majority Republicans using divisive legislation to solve problems that don’t exist. From banning books and making it harder to cast absentee ballots to prohibiting transgender girls from competing in girls’ sports, concentrating more appointment power in the governor’s hands addresses an imagined issue. The House should protect checks and balances and scrap Smith’s bill.
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