Iowa Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds Photo credit: Iowa Governor's Office (Public Domain)
Iowa Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds
Photo credit: Iowa Governor’s Office (Public Domain)

The Des Moines Register published an editorial on Saturday stating if Iowa Governor Terry Branstad truly wants to make government smaller (indicated by fewer state jobs, not a smaller state budget) then he should advocate for the elimination of the Lieutenant Governor’s position.

This would require a constitutional amendment.

Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds has, arguably, been Iowa’s most active Lieutenant Governor. Rarely is Governor Branstad seen without Reynolds by his side. Branstad has also given Reynolds significant responsibility in overseeing parts of his administration’s initiatives.

The Des Moines Register editorial board writes:

Iowa’s original constitution did not provide for the position of lieutenant governor. The secretary of state was to assume the responsibilities of the governor’s office in the event of a death, incapacitation or resignation. The present constitution, drafted in 1857, created the position. According to a 1988 amendment, the individual “shall have the duties provided by law and those duties of the governor assigned to the lieutenant governor by the governor.”

But the role of this individual is not defined in Iowa Code. He or she basically exists to do whatever the governor says, and to wait in the wings in case the governor dies. (Only one Iowa governor, William Beardsley, died while in office and the lieutenant governor served as governor for about two months until the already elected Leo Hoegh was inaugurated).

Why not amend the Iowa Constitution again and abolish the job? Let the secretary of state or someone else succeed to the governor’s office in the unlikely event a governor can’t serve. Save the taxpayers the salary of a lieutenant governor. Kim Reynolds, who currently holds the position, is paid $103,000 plus travel expenses annually.

Those dollars, plus any money spent on staff dedicated to the office, could instead be used to pay for state troopers, prison guards, ombudsmen or other workers whose duties extend beyond the ceremonial and political.

Look its no secret that Branstad is grooming Reynolds to replace him when he retires from office. I don’t think it’s going too far out on a limb to say he’s probably not going to run for a 7th term in 2018 paving the way for Reynolds to run. There has even been speculation that Branstad will not finish out his current term setting Reynolds up to run as an incumbent.

Whether you like her or hate her Reynolds is a strong Lieutenant Governor, and a dynamic politician. She will be a formidable gubernatorial candidate. Reynolds is also Iowa’s 47th Lieutenant Governor so I find it telling that the Des Moines Register would single her position out for elimination.

Reynolds is staunchly pro-life, and I think most would agree she is more conservative than Branstad. I suspect, and I look forward to asking, there are numerous policies that a Reynolds administration would diverge from the previous Branstad administration. There is a reason that the Des Moines Register, who does not care one iota about limiting state government, would seek to end the position under Reynold’s watch. They were quiet when the last three liberal lieutenant governors – Joy Corning, Sally Pedersen and Patty Judge were in office and were far less active than Reynolds.

If the role of the lieutenant governor is obsolete, then so is the role of the Vice President, but I don’t see them calling for Vice President Joe Biden to be drummed out of office. There is a good reason we have the Lieutenant Governor as 2nd in line rather than the Secretary of State, while some states elect this person separately many states have them as part of the ticket. The Lieutenant Governor is part of the Governor’s team, is knowledgeable of the administration priorities and agenda, and would ensure that the role of Governor stayed with the same political party until an election can be held.

It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of Governor Terry Branstad, but one thing I do appreciate is that he has given significant responsibility to Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds. Should something happen to him I feel confident the person stepping into his office would have competency and experience. This is vitally important, and it is something that we should praise. All future Iowa Governors should follow Branstad’s example with their number two.

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