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Iowa Senate passes bill to end confirmation votes for some of the governor's appointees

the iowa senate chamber
Madeleine King
The Iowa Senate passed a bill Tuesday to remove confirmation votes from some of the governor's appointments to boards and commissions.

The Iowa Senate would no longer have to approve the governor’s appointments to several state boards and commissions under a bill passed Tuesday in the Senate.

Current law requires the governor’s appointees to get confirmed by a two-thirds senate vote. With the chamber’s current political makeup, that means the Democratic minority has the power to block nominees supported by the GOP majority. The bill that passed Tuesday would change that.

Sen. Roby Smith, R-Davenport, sponsored the bill.

This does not handcuff the Senate,” Smith said. “This streamlines the process here in the Senate. And I can say that it adds even more oversight to the process because there’s boards that are not subject to the Senate confirmation process that, under this bill, we now have oversight over.”

The bill removes the Senate confirmation requirement from 29 state boards and commissions. It keeps the mandatory process in place for 39 agency directors and 72 boards and commissions, according to a list provided by Senate Republican staff.

Under the bill, a majority of senators would have to sign on to a request to review one of the governor’s appointees to any board or commission that does not have a mandatory confirmation process. Then that appointment could be subject to approval by a two-thirds vote in the Senate.

Sen. Janet Petersen, D-Des Moines, said the bill would eliminate important checks and balances in state government.

“This is not about being a Democrat,” Petersen said. “This is not about being a Republican. This is about being an Iowan who cares about these issues and wants to make sure our governor is taking them seriously—not leaving appointments open, not stacking a board with people that will have only their agenda in mind.”

With the current Senate makeup, Democrats would have to get several Republicans on board if they want to request a confirmation vote for an appointee to a board or commission that doesn’t require a vote.

The bill passed 33-15, with Democratic Sens. Joe Bolkcom of Iowa City and Herman Quirmbach of Ames joining all Republicans present in support of the bill. The remaining Democrats voted against the bill.

The bill now goes to the Iowa House for consideration.

Appointees to these boards and commissions would no longer require Senate confirmation:

  • Agricultural Development Board
  • Iowa Autism Council
  • Early Childhood Iowa State Board
  • Children's Behavioral Health System State Board
  • School Budget Review Committee
  • Commission on Aging
  • Child Advocacy Board
  • Commission of Persons with Disabilities
  • Healthy and Well Kids in Iowa Board
  • Council on Human Services
  • Commission of Latino Affairs
  • Mental Health and Disability Services Commission
  • Commission on Tobacco Use Prevention and Control
  • Board of Corrections
  • Iowa Drug Policy Advisory Council
  • Commission on Judicial Qualifications
  • Justice Advisory Board
  • Iowa Law Enforcement Academy Council
  • City Development Board
  • County Finance Committee
  • Commission on the Status of African Americans
  • Commission of Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs
  • Commission for the Blind
  • Commission on Community Action Agencies
  • Commission of Deaf Services
  • Commission of Native American Affairs
  • Iowa Public Information Board
  • Commission on the Status of Women
  • Commission of Veterans Affairs
Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter