Clarifying line of succession in Iowa goverment

Giving Iowa voters a chance to clarify the line of succession at the top of state government is on the legislature’s docket again this year.

In 2017 when then-Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds took over as governor, the state’s attorney general said it appeared from his reading of the Iowa Constitution that Reynolds did not have authority to name Adam Gregg lieutenant governor. The House has again approved a proposed amendment to Iowa’s Constitution making it clear new governors have the authority to appoint a new lieutenant governor.

Critics like Representative Adam Zabner of Iowa City say the proposed amendment should include having at least 34 members of the Iowa Senate vote to confirm a new governor’s choice for the second highest position in state government.

“My concern is the lack of oversight from the legislature on who would be chosen for this position,” Zabner said. “For a position as important as lieutenant governor, I think it’s very important that the legislature have a say in at least confirming the appointment and making sure that it is a reasonable person.”

Eighteen Democrats voted against the proposal. Representative Heather Matson, a Democrat from Ankeny, was among the Democrats who joined Republicans to pass it. Matson said the proposed constitutional amendment is written in “clear language” for voters and other details could be outlined in state law.

“Personally I’m supporting this amendment because it still provides an option for a future legislation to establish by statute any additional requirements they would like to actually filling that vacancy,” Matson said.

It takes a significant amount of time for lawmakers to propose an amendment to the state constitution and the discussion on this topic started in 2019. If the Senate approves the resolution House members approved this week, Iowans will vote on the proposed amendment in the 2024 General Election.

O. Kay Henderson