Why I dislike constitutional amendments: Part II

This is the second part of a series about the reasons why I object to most amendments to Iowa’s Constitution. The series begins with the most recently approved amendments and ends with my first opportunity to vote for or against a constitutional amendment in Iowa. The previous post on this subject can be found here.

 Dueling (approved by Iowa voters in 1992) Art. I, § 5

1989 Leadership = Senate – Democrats: House – Democrats

1992 Leadership = Senate – Democrats: House – Democrats

In the general election of 1992, Iowa voters approved this measure that repealed section five of article one of the Iowa Constitution. Section five of the Constitution prohibited an otherwise qualified candidate from running for office if that person had been a party to a duel.

The late Representative Clay Spear (D-Wever) spearheaded (no pun intended) this amendment through the legislative process from beginning to end. Rep. Spear claimed that the provision was archaic and no longer necessary as a part of our constitution. I recall voting “NO” on my ballot. My specific objection was the fear of having other original amendments repealed.  There was a sense that dueling may be in style again sometime in the future. Really! I do remember thinking that. Little did I know that a law would be enacted in 2017 called “Stand your ground” in which the outcome is closely related to what a duel may have been two hundred years ago.

  • A person is justified in the use of reasonable force when the person reasonably believes that such force is necessary to defend oneself or another from any actual or imminent use of unlawful force.
  • A person who reasonably believes that a forcible felony is being or will imminently be perpetrated is justified in using reasonable force, including deadly force, against the perpetrator or perpetrators to prevent or terminate the perpetration of that felony
  • A person who is justified in using reasonable force against an aggressor in defense of oneself, another person, or property pursuant to section 704.4 is immune from criminal or civil liability for all damages incurred by the aggressor pursuant to the application of reasonable force

Iowa Code Chapter 704.

I don’t believe that a person involved in dueling or standing ground (according to IA Code Chapter 704) should be eligible to be a qualified candidate for office.

Election and term; Governor and lieutenant governor elected jointly – returns of elections; Election by general assembly in case of tie – succession by lieutenant governor; Contested elections (approved by Iowa voters in 1988) Art. IV, §§ 18

1986 Leadership = Senate – Democrats: House – Democrats

1988 Leadership = Senate – Democrats: House – Democrats


Terms – compensation; Duties of lieutenant governor; Succession to office of governor and lieutenant governor (approved by Iowa voters in 1988) Art. IV, §§ 18

1986 Leadership = Senate – Democrats: House – Democrats

1988 Leadership = Senate – Democrats: House – Democrats

These two amendments were presented to voters on the 1988 general election ballot but were considered separately. The first listed above was known as Amendment 1. The subsequent proposal was Amendment 2.

Prior to the enactment of Amendment 1, Iowa’s lieutenant governor served as the presiding officer in the Iowa Senate, much like the Vice President of the United States serves as the presiding officer in the U.S. Senate. There is a difference, however. Before the enactment of the amendment, the lieutenant governor was elected separately by popular vote. The lieutenant governor could be associated with a minority party, or virtually, no party at all, giving one person without ties to either the governor or Senate, the power to determine legislation with just one vote.

The constitutional amendment allowed voters to select “the governor and lieutenant governor as if these two offices were one and the same.” One vote cast for the governor also was a vote for the candidate running as the governor’s selection to run as his or her successor.

This amendment also changed the term of the governor and lieutenant governor from two years to four years. A final action by the amendment added constitutional language that became highly controversial in 2017. The amendment provided that if the governor was unable to assume the duties of the office of governor for the ensuing term, the powers and duties shall devolve to the nominee for lieutenant governor. The word “devolve,” which means “to pass on (something, such as responsibility, rights, or powers) from one person or entity to another,” was the center of a legal opinion issued by the Iowa attorney general. Because of that word, Governor Reynolds could not appoint a lieutenant governor until her successor was chosen because she simultaneously was serving as governor and lieutenant governor.

A feeble attempt to rectify this problem may be brought before Iowa voters in the near future.

Amendment 1 was approved by two-thirds of Iowa voters.

Amendment 2 was more controversial at the time of enactment. Amendment 2 eliminated the practice of the lieutenant governor serving as the president of the senate. Under this amendment, the Senate would select its own presiding officer from its ranks. The amendment also changed the duties of the lieutenant governor by allowing for those duties to be “provided by law and assigned by the governor.”

The amendment established a definitive chain of succession if the governor and the lieutenant “shall by reason of death, impeachment, resignation, removal from office, or other disability become incapable of performing the duties pertaining to the office of governor, the president of the senate shall act as governor until the vacancy is filled or the disability removed; and if the president of the senate, for any of the above causes, shall be incapable of performing the duties pertaining to the office of governor the same shall devolve upon the speaker of the house of representatives; and if the speaker of the house of representatives, for any of the above causes, shall be incapable of performing the duties of the office of governor, the justices of the supreme court shall convene the general assembly by proclamation and the general assembly shall organize by the election of a president by the senate and a speaker by the house of representatives. The general assembly shall thereupon immediately proceed to the election of a governor and lieutenant governor in joint convention.”

Surprisingly, this amendment was approved by voters on the same ballot as Amendment 1 in the closest ballot vote in Iowa history: 50.01% to 49.99%.

I have no recollection of how I voted on either amendment.

 Time laws to take effect (approved by Iowa voters in 1986) Art. III, § 26

1984 Leadership = Senate – Democrats: House – Democrats

1985 Leadership = Senate – Democrats: House – Democrats

 This amendment was one of the simplest enacted. It changed the date of the enactment of a law from July 4th to July 1st and eliminated the requirement that a law passed of “immediate importance” could not take effect until “publication in newspapers in the State.”

Without researching much further, I can only assume that newspaper owners, journalists, and a few people who oppose everything (no, I am not that person), were the only ones in opposition.


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