Senate Republicans are crafting a “fix” that would ensure future Iowa governors have the constitutional authority to appoint a lieutenant governor who could also become the state’s chief executive.
After an attorney general’s ruling in May, Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds appointed an “acting” lieutenant governor replacement when Terry Branstad resigned and she became governor. A proposed constitutional amendment would make it clear any future lieutenant governor who takes over in the middle of a governor’s term may appoint a lieutenant governor.
“The constitution is there for the people to tell us what we are to do in these situations,” Republican Senator Roby Smith of Davenport said.
Senator Tony Bisignano, a Democrat from Des Moines, said it was a “unique situation” when Branstad resigned in the middle of his term.
“But it doesn’t mean that it can’t happen again and it could happen very soon,” Bisignano said. “If Senator Grassley did not complete his term, Governor Reynolds could appoint herself and if she did that, we would have a lieutenant governor who can’t assume the position of governor at this time.”
In that scenario, Senate President Jack Whitver would be next in what’s called the “line of succession” and he would become governor.
The proposed constitutional amendment has cleared a senate subcommittee. It has at least four more hurdles to clear this year. The proposal would have to win approval from the House and Senate again in 2019 or 2020 before Iowans would be able to vote on the proposed change to the state constitution.