Under the Golden Dome: Appointing

Mar 15, 2019

The governor appoints hundreds of people to serve in state departments. The roles range from board member, director, or member of a judicial nominating commission.  All of these individuals require confirmation by the Senate by a two thirds majority for them to continue in their appointed role.

Some of these appointees visit a Senate committee.  Former Speaker of the House Kraig Paulsen, did that this week with the Ways and Means Committee. Two weeks ago he was appointed as the director of the Iowa Department of Revenue. He talks about the department’s challenges and potential solutions to long waits on the phone for customers who have questions about their taxes during filing time.

Also visiting a committee are three Iowa Board of Regents appointees. They answer questions about universities balancing freedom of speech rights with discrimination.  This topic is center to a bill that comes before the Senate.

The bill is related to 2016 incident that happened at the University of Iowa. The student group Business Leaders in Christ denied one of its members the position of vice president because he was gay.  The group said his sexuality didn’t uphold their statement of faith. The university revoked the group’s status. The Business Leaders in Christ sued. Last month a U.S. District Court in Iowa, ruled the university can’t reject the status of this group.

In the House of Representatives there is a heated discussion about a bill limiting a court from ordering the removal of life support from a minor.  At issue during the debate is what can a court do when parents or guardians disagree about the decision to discontinue life support.

Part of the journey for justices making their way to the bench involves being considered by a judicial nominating commission. For the Iowa Supreme Court, a state commission forwards candidates to the governor. Half of the members of this state commission are selected by the governor and the other by a group of lawyers in the Iowa Bar Association.  The commission is chaired by a senior member of the Supreme Court.

A bill comes before the Senate that would remove the requirement that members selected by the governor be confirmed by the Senate. It also removes the Iowa Bar Association from selecting commissioners and allows the Speaker of the House, House Minority Leader, Senate Majority Leader, and Senate Minority Leader each to appoint two members to this commission.