Republican leaders at the statehouse say they’re meeting with lawyers to see if they can sue the governor. Republican Senate Co-President Jeff Lamberti says they want to know if they can challenge or block an executive order the governor’s said he plans to sign on the Fourth of July, making restoration of voting rights automatic once a felon’s completed a prison sentence or probation. Lamberti says under the old procedure you have to complete the sentence, “and then you at least have to demonstrate a good-faith attempt at paying back victim restitution, fines and court costs. He says that’s not specified in the new rule, and there won’t be an option for the parole board or governor to review each case as they do now. Lamberti says he thinks most Iowans believe that “showing good faith to pay back you fines…is what we mean by paying back your debt to society.” Lamberti speculates that the governor did it for political purposes. He says last year the governor rejected 105 people’s applications to have their voting rights restored, but now they’ll get it automatically. “I’m troubled by that,” he says. Lamberti says they wouldn’t “go down that path unless we felt we were on solid legal footing.” He says Republicans have challenged the governor in a legal battle before, when they felt there was a violation of the constitution. “Or potential legislative action next year,” he says, explaining the Republican lawmakers could either mount a legal challenge to the governor’s executive order now, or plan to write a bill when next they convene. Lamberti, who’s an attorney himself, says he doubts the Republicans will have legal grounds for a lawsuit — but they want to make sure. Lamberti made his remarks on the Iowa Public television Program “Iowa Press.” Meanwhile, the governor’s office said he’s puzzled by talk of a lawsuit, because a bipartisan group of lawmakers asked the governor to restore voting rights to felons, after determining he has sole constitutional power to issue executive clemency.
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