House Study Bill 55 passed on a party line vote Tuesday in a House State Government committee meeting. The joint resolution proposed an amendment to the Iowa Constitution relating to the gubernatorial line of succession. State Rep. Jon Jacobsen managed the bill through committee.
Secretary of State Paul Pate mistakenly failed to publish necessary notification, which derailed previous attempts to address the issue.
State Rep. Sharon Steckman offered Amendment 5585, but it failed 13-10 on a party line vote. Steckman said the amendment would give approval of a new lieutenant governor to the hands of the General Assembly.
“It gives some credence to the appointment,” Steckman said. “In other words, we’ve been elected and I think those people who are elected should be able to approve someone who has never been elected or was not elected. That person could, in all reality or possibility, become governor. That person needs to be at least approved by those of us who have been elected by someone in the state.”
The amendment would have given the House and the Senate both the responsibility of basically confirming the new lieutenant governor.
Jacobsen said he’d consider an amendment which would only give that responsibility to the House.
State Rep. Bruce Hunter voiced concern about the lack of oversight on a possible appointment.
“Without some type of vetting process or confirmation, I could become governor and appoint my brother,” he said.
Jacobsen referenced the Gerald Ford/Nelson Rockefeller incident, noting there was merit to seek ratification from the People’s House.
State Rep. Andy McKean said Steckman raised legitimate points in subcommittee that deserve more discussion.
“Thanks to Secretary of State Pate, we have a second shot at this,” he said. “I think we can do a better job this time around. I’m very appreciative of Rep. Jacobsen’s willingness to take a look at some different approaches to evolving greater oversight of who we pick as our lieutenant governor.”
After the amendment failed, discussion returned to the bill.
State Rep. Mary Mascher stressed the importance of getting it right when it comes to amending the constitution.
“I think this is one that the people are looking to us to make sure that the language is correct and it reflects what we want as a people,” Mascher said. “That’s why I think using the national model and having some oversight in terms of us having a say — whether the House or Senate or both — I’d be fine with that. We should take care to make sure that this is really and truly what we want.”
Hunter and Jacobsen discussed what would happen if there would be a tied election for governor. Jacobsen said the chair of governor would sit empty until there was a resolution.
“If we have a split (in the House and Senate) it could take a while,” Hunter said. “Is it wise to have nobody sitting in the governor’s seat or lieutenant governor’s seat while all this is happening?”
Jacobsen referenced the 12th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. He said the legislators would have to buckle down and reach a solution.
“It’d be like probably needing to do a conclave and lock all the general assembly electors in,” Jacobsen said. “And wait for white smoke to billow from the chimney.”
Hunter joked, “oh, there’d be smoke coming out of there.”
Discussion continued on what would happen if a governor would be unable to serve for a period of time and the lieutenant governor would take the oath of office as governor.
Jacobsen said that scenario would not create a constitutional crisis. Both would return to their roles previous to whatever caused the governor to be unable to serve once the governor is ready again.
Jacobsen finished by saying he’s amenable.