DES MOINES, Iowa – The Iowa House State Government Committee passed HSB 582, a proposed constitutional amendment clarifying the gubernatorial succession line.
It would repeal Article IV, Section 17 of the Iowa Constitution that reads:
“Lieutenant governor to act as governor. In case of the death, impeachment, resignation, removal from office, or other disability of the governor, the powers and duties of the office for the residue of the term, or until he shall be acquitted, or the disability removed, shall devolve upon the lieutenant governor.”
If ratified, this language would replace the repealed section:
“Lieutenant governor or lieutenant governor-elect to become or act as governor or governor-elect. If there is a temporary disability of the governor, the lieutenant governor shall act as governor until the disability is removed, or the governor dies, resigns, or is removed from office. In case of the death, resignation, or removal from office of the governor, the lieutenant governor shall become governor for the remainder of the term, which shall create a vacancy in the office of lieutenant governor. This section shall also apply, as appropriate, to the governor-elect and the lieutenant governor-elect.”
There was a question about gubernatorial succession in 2017.
Former Governor Terry Branstad resigned after his confirmation to become U.S. Ambassador to China in the Trump administration. As a result, there was a question of whether then Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds would become the new governor or act as governor, prompting this proposed constitutional amendment.
State Rep. Mary Wolfe, D-Clinton, offered an amendment that would allow the governor to appoint a new Lt. Governor who would be subject to confirmation by the Iowa Legislature, similar to the language in the 25th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
In 2017, there was also a question of whether Reynolds could appoint a new Lt. Governor. She initially appointed Adam Gregg as an “acting Lt. Governor,” who was not officially in the line of succession until their ticket was elected in 2018.
Wolfe provided a hypothetical example if Gregg became governor unexpectedly, he could appoint former Congressman Steve King as Lt. Governor, and if something happened to Gregg, he would become governor.
“There might be some people who are fine with that. But apparently, the voters in former Congressman Steve King’s district didn’t want him representing them in Congress. And I think it’s important ffor the General Assembly to be able to weigh in on whether the new governor’s proposed lieutenant governor is in fact an appropriate person to be representing the people of Iowa in the case of an unfortunate demise of the governor,” she said.
State Rep. Brooke Boden, R-Indianola, who managed the bill in committee, opposed the amendment.
“So I believe that Iowans elect a governor and they select that person and they believe that they’re qualified then to select the next person in line is such as the lieutenant governor,” she said.
Wolfe’s amendment was defeated 9 to 14 along party lines, and the bill was adopted along party lines as Wolfe encouraged her caucus to oppose the bill without the amendment.
This proposed amendment would have to pass both the Iowa House and Iowa Senate during the 89th and 90th General Assemblies before Iowans would have the opportunity to vote to ratify the amendment.