Senator nudges Iowa attorney general on Kim Reynolds succession questions

State Senator David Johnson wrote to Attorney General Tom Miller today to follow up on his request last month for answers to nine questions related to the coming transfer of power in Iowa. Governor Terry Branstad plans to resign following his expected confirmation as U.S. ambassador to China, which could happen in late April or early May.

I enclose Johnson’s latest letter in full below. The senator, who is not affiliated with any political party, noted the urgency of the question, because of Branstad’s upcoming U.S. Senate confirmation hearings. Johnson added, “My mail last month included a surprising number of cards and letters thanking me for making the request for an Official Opinion, as citizens’ attention has been drawn to the situation.”

Johnson’s February 1 letter to Miller requested a formal opinion “on an expedited basis” by February 15, because Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds will assume the governor’s powers soon. However, the Attorney General’s Office has not yet responded in writing. When I last inquired about the status of the opinion, Miller’s spokesperson Geoff Greenwood told me in a February 27 e-mail, “Our office is still working on it. I’ll let you know when we have something available.”

Several readers have asked why anyone should care whether Reynolds will have the title of governor and whether she will appoint a new lieutenant governor after Branstad leaves the scene. To recap points I explained in more detail here, allowing Reynolds to appoint a new lieutenant governor would put an unelected person (rather than the Iowa Senate president) next in line to perform the governor’s duties, should anything happen to Reynolds before January 2019. In addition, a newly-appointed lieutenant governor could travel the state in an official capacity, handling public events and generating local media coverage. In effect, Reynolds would be able to use state resources to boost the political profile of her chosen running mate for 2018.

I look forward to reading the opinion from Miller, though I still believe the best outcome would be for the seven Iowa Supreme Court justices to provide a definitive interpretation of the relevant provisions in the Iowa Constitution. Nowhere in that document is it written that the lieutenant governor is empowered to a new lieutenant governor when the governor’s office becomes vacant.

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Senator asks attorney general for opinion on future title, powers of Kim Reynolds

State Senator David Johnson has asked Attorney General Tom Miller to provide an official opinion on whether Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds will have the title of governor and the authority to appoint a new lieutenant governor once Governor Terry Branstad resigns, as expected later this year.

Johnson asked Miller to answer nine specific questions regarding language in the Iowa Constitution stating that “the powers and duties of the office” of governor “shall devolve upon the Lieutenant Governor,” and referring to the lieutenant governor “acting as governor” and “performing the duties pertaining to the office of governor.”

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17 Iowa politics predictions for 2017

Two weeks late and humbled by the results from previous efforts to foretell the future, I offer seventeen Iowa politics predictions for the new year.

I struggled to compile this list, in part because it’s harder to come up with things to predict during a non-election year. I didn’t want to stack the deck with obvious statements, such as “the GOP-controlled Iowa House and Senate will shred collective bargaining rights.” The most consequential new laws coming down the pike under unified Republican control of state government are utterly predictable. I needed time to look up some cases pending before the Iowa Supreme Court. Also, I kept changing my mind about whether to go for number 17. (No guts, no glory.)

I want to mention one prediction that isn’t on this list, because I don’t expect it to happen this year or next. I am convinced that if the GOP holds the governor’s office and both chambers of the Iowa legislature in 2018, they will do away with non-partisan redistricting before the 2020 census. I don’t care what anyone says about our system being a model for the country or too well-established for politicians to discard. Everywhere Republicans have had a trifecta during the last decade, they have gerrymandered. Iowa will be no exception. So if Democrats don’t want to be stuck with permanent minority status in the state legislature, we must win the governor’s race next year. You heard it here first.

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Weekend open thread: Terrible predictions edition

What’s on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

In the real world as well as on social media, many Iowa Democratic activists have been talking about Rich Leopold this week. Since announcing his candidacy for governor on Wednesday, Leopold has reached out to county chairs and other local leaders in a bunch of towns. I hope his early, aggressive campaign will drive other Democrats thinking about this race to start pounding the pavement sooner rather than later. I’m all for a spirited, competitive 2018 primary.

Longtime Johnson County elections office worker John Deeth wrote a must-read “deep dig” about the real-world implications of “the proposed voter ID legislation, with the Orwellian name ‘Voter Integrity,’ launched by Secretary of State Paul Pate on Thursday.” Key point: county auditors of both parties are not fans of voter ID, “because they’ve been on the front lines of dealing with the public and they know that it doesn’t solve anything and that it will make it harder for the public.” Bleeding Heartland’s take on Pate’s solution in search of a problem is here.

Des Moines Register statehouse reporter Brianne Pfannenstiel published a heartbreaking account of her mother’s terminal illness during the presidential campaign, a “sudden and devastating” ordeal that still “hurts like hell every day.”

Along with most Iowa politics watchers, I’m gearing up for the 2017 Iowa legislative session, which begins on Monday. First, let’s take care of some unfinished business from 2016. Like many political writers and a fair number of Bleeding Heartland readers, I had a horrendous year for predictions.

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A year's worth of guest posts, plus tips for guest authors

One of my blogging new year’s resolutions for 2016 was to publish more work by other authors, and I’m grateful to the many talented writers who helped me meet that goal. After the jump I’ve linked to all 140 guest posts published here last year.

I encourage readers to consider writing for this site in 2017. Guest authors can write about any political issue of local, state, or national importance. As you can see from the stories enclosed below, a wide range of topics and perspectives are welcome here.

Pieces can be short or long, funny or sad. You can write in a detached voice or let your emotions show.

Posts can analyze what happened or advocate for what should happen, either in terms of public policy or a political strategy for Democrats. Authors can share first-person accounts of campaign events or more personal reflections about public figures.

Guest authors do not need to e-mail a draft to me or ask permission to pursue a story idea. Just register for an account (using the “sign up” link near the upper right), log in, write a post, edit as needed, and hit “submit for review” when you are ready to publish. The piece will be “pending” until I approve it for publication, to prevent spammers from using the site to sell their wares. You can write under your own name or choose any pseudonym not already claimed by another Bleeding Heartland user. I do not reveal authors’ identity without their permission.

I also want to thank everyone who comments on posts here. If you’ve never participated that way, feel free to register for a user account and share your views. If you used to comment occasionally but have not done so lately, you may need to reset your password. Let me know if you have any problems registering for an account, logging in, or changing a password. My address is near the lower right-hand corner of this page.

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The 16 Bleeding Heartland posts that were most fun to write in 2016

Freedom to chase any story that captures my attention is the best part of running this website. A strong sense of purpose carries me through the most time-consuming projects. But not all work that seems worthwhile is fun. Classic example: I didn’t enjoy communicating with the white nationalist leader who bankrolled racist robocalls to promote Donald Trump shortly before the Iowa caucuses.

Continuing a tradition I started last year, here are the Bleeding Heartland posts from 2016 that have a special place in my heart. Not all of them addressed important Iowa political news, but all were a joy to write.

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