116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
DES MOINES — The line of succession plan for when an Iowa governor is no longer in office would be clarified under a proposed amendment to the state constitution.
The plan received its first legislative approval Tuesday at the Iowa Capitol, the first step in the laborious process of amending the Iowa Constitution.
The proposal would amend the state constitution to say that if the governor is temporarily unable to fulfill the office’s duties, the lieutenant governor will act as governor until the governor can resume his or her duties. And if the governor leaves the office permanently or dies, the lieutenant governor becomes governor for the remainder of the governor’s term.
Under the proposed amendment, if the lieutenant governor becomes governor, the lieutenant governor position becomes vacant. That would clear the way for the new governor to appoint a new lieutenant governor.
“We think (the proposal) has landed in a pretty good place,” said Nathan Blake, with the Iowa Attorney General’s Office.
Senate Joint Resolution 15 was approved Tuesday by a three-member Senate subcommittee, with two Republicans, Sens. Roby Smith of Davenport and Chris Cournoyer of LeClaire, and one Democrat, Sen. Claire Celsi of Des Moines, expressing their support. Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton, said the House’s intention is to approve the proposed amendment this session.
To amend the Iowa Constitution, the proposal must pass two separate sessions of the Iowa Legislature with an election held between, then be approved by a public vote.
In 2017, Gov. Terry Branstad was appointed U.S. ambassador to China. When then-Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds replaced Branstad as governor, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller issued a formal ruling that stated upon her move, Reynolds did not have the authority to name a new lieutenant governor.
Reynolds eventually named Adam Gregg her “acting” lieutenant governor. He served in the role without holding the office’s official responsibilities. Most notably, he was not officially in the line of succession. Had Reynolds been forced to leave office, Gregg would not have become governor.
Under the proposed constitutional amendment, any lieutenant governor who became governor would be able to appoint a new lieutenant governor who would hold the official office and be in the line of succession.
Ambiguity in the state constitution propelled legislators to begin clarifying that line of succession language through a constitutional amendment.
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