Republicans on the House Government Oversight Committee voted in favor of a bill that would remove the responsibility of publishing proposed constitutional amendments from the Secretary of State and instead place that duty on the general assembly.
Secretary of State Paul Pate did not get two proposed constitutional amendments published, which killed those proposed amendments.
“In essence it is going to remove the pocket veto that the Secretary of State currently has,” said Rep. Jarad Klein (R-Keota). “This is something I think we needed to address a long time ago.”
When Chet Culver was Secretary of State, he also failed to publish notification of a proposed constitutional amendment.
The committee voted in favor of an amendment that allows the general assembly to publish the information on its website as well as in newspapers. It also removes any concerns Democrats had that the amendment would make it retroactive.
“Our intent is about looking forward, not looking backwards,” Klein said. “If it was, we would’ev made it retroactive.”
Klein acknowledged concerns with the amendment, but said he’d sit with Rep. Mary Wolfe (D-Clinton) to make sure the language is 100 percent correct.
Wolfe said she had initial concerns after seeing the amendment that it would unintentionally allow proposed constitutional amendments that had been rendered invalid to be resurrected.
“After looking at everything as a whole, I no longer have that concern,” she said. “I certainly never thought that was the intention of the amendment. Having said that, I do think that the language in the proposed amendment currently, in my opinion, could be considered to be unconstitutional on its face.”
Her issue with the language was centered around an amendment not being invalid because of an error or omission occurring with the publication requirements.
“The intention is more to ensure that small, non-substantive errors in the publication process do not serve to invalidate a constitutional amendment that has been passed by two general assemblies,” Wolfe speculated. “That’s not quite what it says at this time.”
Klein said that isn’t the intent of the amendment.
“The intent is to be up front and honest with what we’re doing,” he said. “If we need to tighten the language, we’ll do that.”
For supporters of the bill, it’s all about making sure the Secretary of State doesn’t have a pocket veto on future proposed constitutional amendments.
“This is important going forward for both parties no matter who is in charge to make sure when we act, our actions are honored,” Klein said. “I think it’s a very important piece of legislation for the entire state going forward in the future.”
The bill passed the committee 5-4 and will move forward as a committee bill. It is not subject to funnel deadlines as it is a House Government Oversight bill.