Last week, the Iowa House voted to pass SJR 9, a constitutional amendment addressing the qualification of electors in the state. The resolution passed both the House and Senate with unanimous support.
SJR 9 is a straightforward resolution that changes articles I and II of the Iowa Constitution. Under the current language, voters must be 21, even though the legal age was lowered to 18 many years ago. The resolution changes the voting age to 18 and clarifies that only citizens of the United States are eligible to vote. While the language changes are small, they are important to ensure our state Constitution remains up do date.
Another proposed Constitutional amendment, HJR 2005, was passed by the Senate this week. It updates the line of succession for the office of governor. Article IV, Section 17 of the Iowa Constitution says that in the case there is a vacancy in the office of governor, the powers and duties of the governor devolve upon the lieutenant governor.
In 2009 the legislature amended Iowa Code to say that “An appointment by the governor to fill a vacancy in the office of lieutenant governor shall be for the balance of the unexpired term.” However, in 2017 when Governor Branstad resigned, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller issued a legal opinion that Kim Reynolds would assume the powers and duties of governor, but she did not have the authority to appoint a new lieutenant governor.
It is important for Iowans to know the legal line of succession in the case of a vacancy in the office of governor. HJR 2005 replaces and updates Section 17 to clarify that the lieutenant governor or lieutenant governor-elect assumes the office if a vacancy occurs. This then creates a vacancy in the office of lieutenant governor or lieutenant governor-elect, which can be filled by the new Governor.
Amendments to the Iowa Constitution can only happen if the language passes both the House and Senate in two separate general assemblies and then is approved by voters. Both of these Resolutions will need to pass both chambers in either 2023 or 2024 and then will be on the ballot for approval in November of 2024.