RELEASE: Gov. Branstad, Lt. Gov. Reynolds respond to Attorney General Miller's reversal of opinion


Governor Terry E. Branstad « Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Monday, May 1, 2017

CONTACT: Governor’s Office 515-281-5211


Gov. Branstad, Lt. Gov. Reynolds respond to Attorney General Miller’s reversal of opinion


(DES MOINES) – Today, after learning of Attorney General Tom Miller’s reversal of opinion, Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds issued the following statements, and provided both facts and background information to the public on the case for a new Lt. Governor.   

Gov. Terry Branstad

“Tom Miller was crystal clear last December when he said Lt. Governor Reynolds could act upon existing law and appoint a Lt. Governor when she becomes Governor upon my resignation.

‘Our office has researched the law and consulted with the Governor's office.  We concur with the Governor's conclusion that, upon resignation of Governor Branstad, Lt. Governor Reynolds will become Governor and will have the authority to appoint a new Lt. Governor.’ – Tom Miller's Office, December 13, 2016.

No new facts or laws have changed since December 13, 2016.  Tom Miller has allowed politics to cloud his judgment and is ignoring Iowa law.  This politically motivated opinion defies common sense. Iowans expect a Governor and Lt. Governor working on their behalf. This is disappointing.”

Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds

“In December, Attorney General Tom Miller researched the law and concurred with the Secretary of State and our office that, upon Gov. Branstad’s resignation, I become Governor and have the authority to appoint a new Lt. Governor.  Since then, I’ve been moving forward with that understanding.  Now, five months later, just one day before Governor Branstad testifies before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the Attorney General has reversed himself, but the law hasn’t changed.  The law still states that as Governor, I vacate my role as Lt. Governor and am able to appoint a new Lt. Governor.  With the law on our side we will move forward with his first conclusion as we examine our options in light of Tom Miller’s reversal.”   

Ben Hammes, Communications Director

"The power of a Governor to appoint a new Lt. Governor was put into the law in 2009 by the democrats.  That law says: ‘An appointment by the governor to fill a vacancy in the office of lieutenant governor shall be for the balance of the unexpired term.’  This bill passed unanimously by both parties and signed into law by a democrat Governor.  Now, just because the democrats do not control the Governor's office, Attorney General Miller wants to pretend like this law does not exist, and issue a non-binding opinion.  Quite frankly, this is what Iowans are sick and tired of.  The Attorney General should be upholding the law, not ignoring it." 


Background Information:

Attorney General Miller now says that Lt. Gov. Reynolds will be both Governor and Lt. Governor at the same time and that Lt. Gov. Reynolds will not be able to appoint a new Lt. Governor.  That defies common sense and the law.

(1)   When Gov. Branstad resigns, the Iowa Constitution states that his powers will devolve upon Lt. Gov. Reynolds.  Lt. Gov. Reynolds will become Governor.  Attorney General Miller agrees with this conclusion. 

(2)   Iowa law prevents someone from holding two offices at the same time.  Because Kim Reynolds will become Governor, she will automatically vacate the Office of the Lt. Governor.

(3)   In 2009, the Iowa Legislature (led by democrats) passed a statute to clarify that if there is a vacancy in the Office of Lt. Governor, the Governor appoints someone to fill that vacancy.  That law is clear: "An appointment by the governor to fill a vacancy in the office of lieutenant governor shall be for the balance of the unexpired term."

(4)   When Terry Branstad resigns, Kim Reynolds becomes Governor; the Office of Lt. Governor is then vacant, and under the Iowa Code (passed unanimously by the Legislature) Gov. Reynolds appoints someone to fill that vacancy.

Similar situations have occurred before in other states.  For example:

(1)   In 2003, President Bush picked Utah Gov. Michael Leavitt to head the EPA. The state’s Attorney General, in a thorough legal opinion, concluded that Leavitt’s Lt. Governor became Governor and vacated the Lt. Governor’s Office. The new Governor, then, was free to appoint a new Lt. Governor (and he did).

(2)   Similarly, when then-Gov. Bill Clinton became president in 1993, the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled — based upon constitutional provisions that are nearly identical to Iowa’s — that his Lt. Governor became Governor. The Office of the Lt. Governor was then vacant, and Mike Huckabee filled that vacancy mid-term.

(3)   Finally, and most recently, the New York’s highest court ruled that when Gov. Elliot Spitzer resigned, Lt. Governor David Patterson became Governor, vacated the Office of Lt. Governor, and was free to appoint a new Lt. Governor.

In December 2016, Attorney General Miller agreed with this view of the law.  Since then, the Constitution hasn’t changed.  Neither has the Iowa Code.  While Attorney General Miller's opinion is not binding on anybody, Iowans should ask why Attorney General Miller suddenly reversed course.