On a strict party-line vote, Republicans in the Iowa House today approved a proposed constitutional amendment to clarify the line of succession when an Iowa lieutenant governor assumes the governorship.
Republicans say that will correct what some saw as an error over the appointment of acting Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg last year.
When Gov. Reynolds assumed the governorship last year, according to an opinion from Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, she was not able to formally appoint Adam Gregg to the second-in-command position.
Instead, Gregg is serving as acting lieutenant governor.
Under the proposed amendment, a lieutenant governor who assumes the governorship is fully authorized to appoint a new lieutenant governor.
Rep. Chip Baltimore (R-Boone) says many believe that authority already exists in the constitution and in Iowa code.
“This simply clarifies existing code, existing constitutional provisions, and what everyone, I shouldn't say everyone, what many, many, many people believed would be the case.”
Democrats united against the proposed constitutional amendment.
They argued that if a new governor appoints a lieutenant governor, that should be subject to House and Senate confirmation.
“There is nothing qualifying that lieutenant governor that the governor appoints,” said Rep. Sharon Steckman. “The person has not been elected.”
“I don't understand what possible rationale we can give for not providing some small amount of vetting to the person who is going to be a heartbeat away,” said Rep. Mary Wolfe (D-Clinton).
But Baltimore said a confirmation vote would inject politics into the appointment.
“Nowhere in the Iowa constitution nor in the Iowa code are the qualifications for vetting the appointment of a lieutenant governor laid out, so you get to make it up as you go,” Baltimore said. “It can be whatever you want it to be.”
The proposed constitutional amendment must pass two consecutive general assemblies and be approved by a vote of the people before it would take effect. A different version of the amendment has passed the Senate.
Because of Adam Gregg’s provisional appointment as lieutenant governor, he is not next in line of succession for the governorship. Instead, Senate President Charles Schneider would become governor in the event of Gov. Reynolds’ death.