Adam Gregg will "operate" but not "hold" office of lieutenant governor

Seeking to avoid a lawsuit, Governor Kim Reynolds has picked State Public Defender Adam Gregg as her lieutenant governor to “serve in an acting capacity, fulfilling all duties of the lieutenant governor’s office through the January 2019 inauguration.”

Attorney General Tom Miller issued a formal opinion this month stating that Reynolds will not have the authority to name a new lieutenant governor. Reynolds and many other Republicans attacked Miller for what they called a “partisan” decision, but apparently the new governor doesn’t want to roll the dice on how the Iowa Supreme Court would resolve this question.

Instead, Gregg will have the title of lieutenant governor and the salary associated with the position. According to the governor’s Deputy Chief of Staff Tim Albrecht, “Gregg will ‘operate’ the office of lieutenant governor, but not actually ‘hold’ that office.”

The Reynolds administration acknowledges that Gregg will have no place in the line of succession. Under Article IV, Section 19 of the Iowa Constitution, if there is a vacancy in the governor’s office and the lieutenant governor becomes “incapable of performing the duties pertaining to the office of governor,” the Iowa Senate president “shall act as governor,” with the Iowa House speaker next in line to hold those powers.

I sought comment from Miller and others on whether the state constitution allows someone someone to hold the title of lieutenant governor while serving “in an acting capacity.” (The constitution does not discuss that concept, as far as I can tell.) Miller will hold a press conference later this morning, after which I will update this post. Gary Dickey, who researched these questions as legal counsel for Governor Tom Vilsack in 2004, said via e-mail today, “I know of no limitation on giving titles to employees of the office. Whether they want to call him Lieutenant, vice, or deputy means little so long as he does not attempt assume the constitutional right of succession in the event that Governor Reynolds can no longer serve.” Dickey later told the Associated Press, “As a matter of law, he’s just another staff member of the office, […] It’s a positive sign that she recognizes there are constitutional limitations to the office. I’m not sure that’s always been the case for the last six years.”

Today’s news release and background on Gregg are after the jump.

UPDATE: Miller told reporters today that the “fundamental question” in his formal opinion was related to succession questions. He said he’s “pleased” Reynolds took action today “that would not alter the succession provision,” complying with his opinion on the key constitutional question. He added that the governor can designate anyone she wants to perform certain roles on her behalf. Miller noted, “The one question that remains is the title, acting lieutenant governor. It’s a new position. It’s not a constitutional provision or position,” and it’s not part of the constitutional framework. His staff will do further research on that position. “The key fundamental question here” is who succeeds and Reynolds “complied fully” with his opinion about the Iowa Constitution. Asked whether Reynolds had ruled out any legal challenge, Miller replied that he wouldn’t “I wouldn’t go that far” to make such a “broad statement.” But making clear that Gregg is outside the line of succession “dramatically” changes the landscape for such a lawsuit.

As he said on May 1, Miller said he supports amending the state constitution to allow a lieutenant governor who assumes the governor’s office to appoint a new lieutenant governor.

Miller confirmed that no one on Reynolds’s staff consulted him about their plans. He said the governor’s senior legal counsel Ryan Koopmans called the Attorney General’s office around 9:30 this morning to inform them about the decision.

Asked to comment on Republican Party of Iowa Chair Jeff Kaufmann calling his opinion a “ridiculous partisan stunt,” the attorney general repeated that he was persuaded by the weight of the evidence, including “overwhelming” case law from other states.

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Rest in peace, Joy Corning

Joy Corning was independent. As a state senator and lieutenant governor, she didn’t cater to social conservatives who were gaining strength in the Republican Party of Iowa during the 1980s and 1990s. She paid a price for her principles when she ran for governor in 1998 and got no support from Terry Branstad, along whose side she had served for eight years. She would have been a great governor.

Joy was empathetic. Long before she ran for office, she was a young stay-at-home mom when her husband came home from work with awful news: a woman in their community had died of complications from a back-alley abortion, leaving a husband to raise three children alone. Joy couldn’t stop thinking about that mother. The tragedy fueled her dedication to protecting reproductive rights. “Whatever the circumstances of the unintended pregnancy, we cannot experience the hardship and struggle faced by some women who make this decision. We are simply not in their shoes,” Joy wrote in a guest column for the Des Moines Register this year.

Joy was fair-minded. She was among the first prominent members of her party to support marriage equality in Iowa. During the 2010 campaign, she and former Democratic Lieutenant Governor Sally Pederson co-chaired the Justice Not Politics coalition, supporting the retention of Iowa Supreme Court justices who were under attack after striking down our state’s Defense of Marriage Act.

Joy was fact-oriented. While watching the Republican presidential debates, she was repelled by Donald Trump’s “know-it-all demeanor when he really doesn’t know what he’s talking about.” She came out publicly as #NeverTrump last September and shortly before the election co-authored an editorial endorsing Hillary Clinton, in part because of Trump’s “demagoguery,” “racism, nationalism, misogyny and discrimination against people with disabilities.”

Joy was committed. Some politicians leave the state after their ambitions don’t pan out, but Joy stayed in Iowa and volunteered countless hours for many causes over the last eighteen years. In her obituary, she wrote that she was “most passionate about issues related to children and families, women’s health & rights, equality and justice, education and the arts.” For friends who are inspired to make contributions in her memory, she suggested the Planned Parenthood of the Heartland Foundation, Plymouth Church Foundation, UNI Foundation, or the Des Moines Symphony Foundation. Joy was also a founding board member of 50/50 in 2020, a non-profit seeking to elect more women in Iowa, as well as a founding member of an advisory board for the University of Iowa’s center for gifted education, named in part after my mother. (Joy and my mother became friends when both served on school boards during the 1970s–Joy in Cedar Falls, my mother in West Des Moines. I didn’t get to know Joy until many years later, when I served on a fundraising committee she chaired for what was then called Planned Parenthood of Greater Iowa.)

Joy was kind. Former Planned Parenthood leader Jill June recalled her motto: “If you can’t say something nice, be vague.” That approach to life wouldn’t produce good blog content, but it did make Joy a wonderful human being.

After the jump I’ve posted many other reflections on Joy Corning’s legacy. Please share your own memories in this thread.

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Where things stand with Iowa's new anti-abortion law

Ten days after Governor Terry Branstad signed sweeping limits on access to abortions, part of the new law is still on hold while courts consider a challenge filed by Planned Parenthood of the Heartland. Planned Parenthood maintains that a 72-hour waiting period for abortions at any stage of pregnancy would violate women’s due process and equal protection guarantees. In addition to creating an “undue burden” for women with “onerous and medically unnecessary restrictions that the Iowa Legislature does not impose upon any other medical procedure for which people may consent,” the law imposes new requirements for physicians, which Planned Parenthood is challenging as a violation of the doctors’ due process rights.

That aspect of the lawsuit informed the Iowa Supreme Court’s May 9 order continuing a temporary injunction. The high court found, “The State has failed to rebut the assertion by the petitioners that the materials that serve as the foundation information required to be provided to women seeking an abortion have not yet been developed by the Department of Public Health pursuant to the law.” The order remanded the case back to Polk County District Court, where within 30 days, Judge Jeffrey Farrell will hold a final hearing on Planned Parenthood’s request for an injunction on the new law. Farrell had denied the first request for a temporary injunction, saying plaintiffs had not shown new burdens on women seeking abortions in Iowa would constitute an “undue burden.”

For those who want a preview of the legal points Farrell will consider when he decides whether to block enforcement of Iowa’s law, I enclose below four documents:

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Early clues about the Kim Reynolds leadership style are not encouraging

Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds will likely begin performing the duties of our state’s highest office very soon, following Governor Terry Branstad’s expected confirmation as U.S. ambassador to China. Speaking to journalists, some Republicans who have worked with Reynolds have enthused about her willingness to study the issues and be engaged in policy-making as part of her long preparation for the job.

Unfortunately, the way Reynolds has handled the controversy surrounding her authority to appoint a new lieutenant governor has revealed a willful disdain for research and opposing views.

Now, she admits she may have trouble working with Attorney General Tom Miller, whom she views as “my legal counsel” interfering with “my plan.”

If recent events reflect how Reynolds will approach other complicated and contentious issues, Iowans have reason to worry.

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Iowa Supreme Court suspends Ted Sporer's law license for six months

A once-prominent voice for central Iowa Republicans will be unable to practice law for six months under an Iowa Supreme Court ruling announced yesterday. In a unanimous decision enclosed in full below, the justices found that Ted Sporer made “false statements to a tribunal” and engaged in “misrepresentation or deceit,” as well as conduct “prejudicial to the administration of justice.” For Sporer’s side of the story, watch his presentation during last month’s oral arguments before the high court (video also enclosed below).

The disciplinary action stemmed from a 2013 case, in which Polk County District Court Judge Douglas Staskal determined “beyond a reasonable doubt” that Sporer “fabricated evidence” and “lied under oath” to help a client who was violating the terms of a divorce decree. Bleeding Heartland posted relevant excerpts from that ruling here.

The Supreme Court’s Grievance Commission had recommended the six-month suspension, citing “significant aggravating circumstances”: Sporer’s long experience as an attorney, violations of multiple ethics rules, and prior disciplinary history including a public reprimand. Scroll to the end of this post to read a 2011 letter of to Sporer from the Iowa Supreme Court Attorney Disciplinary Board, citing misrepresentations to a client he had failed to represent “with reasonable diligence and promptness.”

Sporer chaired the Polk County Republican Party from 2001 to 2009 and served on the Republican Party of Iowa’s State Central Committee from 2002 to 2008, during which time he spent five years as the GOP’s State Organization Chairman. He was also an active voice in Iowa’s conservative blogosphere during the last decade. However, he has not updated The Real Sporer blog since 2012.

The last time Sporer was in the news, he was representing then State Senator Kent Sorenson in a lawsuit over allegedly stolen e-mails (which was later settled out of court) and during a criminal investigation of Sorenson’s actions before and after the 2012 Iowa caucuses. Sporer repeatedly denied his client had received any “direct or indirect payment from the Ron Paul campaign.” Even as revelations about payments from Michele Bachmann’s presidential campaign forced Sorenson to resign from the Iowa Senate, Sporer continued to insist his client had not lied. Sorenson later pled guilty to the hidden payment scheme and was eventually sentenced to 15 months in prison after cooperating with the federal investigation into former Paul campaign operatives.

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