116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
DES MOINES — In addition to voting for a president, Iowans in two years could be voting to clarify the line of succession for their state’s chief executive.
State lawmakers have given the first stage of approval to a proposed state constitutional amendment that would clarify what happens when Iowa’s governor must be replaced.
That proposal passed the Iowa Senate on Tuesday; it previously passed the Iowa House.
Because it would amend the Iowa Constitution, the line of succession proposal now must be passed again by the Iowa Legislature in either 2023 or 2024. It then must be approved by a public vote; it could go on the ballot as early as 2024.
The proposed constitutional amendment says if the governor of Iowa dies, resigns or is removed from office, the lieutenant governor becomes the governor.
Under the proposal, the lieutenant governor position would become vacant, clearing the way for the new governor to appoint a new lieutenant governor.
At that time, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller provided a formal opinion that the Iowa Constitution does not clearly state that the lieutenant governor position becomes vacant in such a transition. So his opinion was that Reynolds occupied both the governor’s and lieutenant governor’s position simultaneously.
While Republicans disagreed with the attorney general’s opinion, they did not challenge it. Instead, Reynolds appointed Adam Gregg as her “acting” lieutenant governor. He was paid a salary and performed most of the duties of a lieutenant governor, but was not officially in the line of succession. If Reynolds had been forced to leave the office for any reason, Gregg would not have become governor.
In 2018, Reynolds and Gregg were elected governor and lieutenant governor for a four-year term.
The proposal from the Republican-led Iowa Legislature, House Joint Resolution 2005, passed the Senate with strong bipartisan support, 46-3. It previously passed the House on a largely party-line vote, 63-34.
The main objection raised by some Democrats has been that they believe the proposal should include a requirement that any newly appointed lieutenant governor face confirmation in the Iowa Senate, since that individual would not have appeared on the ballot.
The proposed line of succession amendment also was approved by the Iowa Legislature in 2018, but a clerical error in the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office nullified the bill and forced legislators to restart the process. They waited until this year to do so.
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