DES MOINES, Iowa – On Tuesday, an Iowa House subcommittee tabled a bill, HF 109, that would give the Iowa Legislature the ability to overturn an Iowa Supreme Court opinion.
The bill sponsored by State Rep. Sandy Salmon, R-Janesville, gives the Iowa Supreme Court discretionary, exclusive original jurisdiction over challenges to Iowa law.
The bill also pauses decisions by the Iowa Supreme Court from taking effect for one year if the opinion strikes down an existing law or “has the effect of creating a new law.”
The bill also gives the Iowa Legislature the ability to compel justices to discuss and debate their ruling in a public hearing within one year that the opinion was issued. The legislation also gives the justices the ability to change their opinion after the hearing if they so choose.
The legislation would also give the Iowa Legislature the ability to overturn an opinion that invalidates a law or has the effect of making law with a two-thirds majority vote.
Iowa’s Constitution gives the Iowa Legislature broad authority to establish, restructure, and determine the jurisdiction of courts, including the Iowa Supreme Court.
Article V, Section 4 of the Iowa Constitution reads, “The Supreme Court shall have appellate jurisdiction only in cases of chancery, and shall constitute a court for the correction of errors at law, under such restrictions as the General Assembly may, by law, prescribe.”
What that power looks like in practice is debatable and is something conservative lawmakers have considered due to their concern about an increasingly powerful judicial branch.
“I thought the bill probably would not go forward, but I thought it was an intriguing idea and a good way to address the imbalance of power there is with the judicial branch over the legislative branch,” Salmon told The Iowa Torch.
The Attorney General of Iowa’s office registered against the bill. Other legal groups registered as undecided, but Salmon said it was clear from the comments made during the subcommittee hearing on Tuesday morning most groups favored the status quo.
“We didn’t get the votes to move forward, there were too many questions that needed clarifying,” Salmon said.
State Rep. Dustin Hite, R-New Sharon, told The Iowa Torch that he had concerns about the bill’s workability. “It may make it more difficult for the legislature to pass a law or constitutional amendment,” he said.
State Rep. Mary Wolfe, D-Clinton, was also part of the subcommittee, and she opposed the bill. The panel unanimously decided to table the legislation.