On her first full day in office, Gov. Kim Reynolds today named an acting lieutenant governor to serve with her as she completes the last 20 months of Gov. Terry Branstad’s term.
But to comply with an attorney general’s ruling, the new appointee will not officially hold the office and will not become governor if Reynolds should be unable to serve.
In a formal opinion issued earlier this month, Attorney General Tom Miller concluded that under Iowa’s constitution a lieutenant governor who assumes the governership should not name a new lieutenant governor to be next in line of succession.
Reynolds sharply disagreed. However, to avoid a lawsuit she has named state public defender Adam Gregg to be acting lieutenant governor instead of lieutenant governor.
In the unusual arrangement, no one will hold the office, but Gregg will perform all the duties.
“He's going to be a full partner as I indicated, just like I was with Governor Branstad,” Reynolds said. “He'll be involved in all decisions as part of the executive branch, we’ll be working on policy, we’ll be traveling to all 99 counties.”
But following the constitution, Senate President Jack Whitver, not Gregg, will be next in line of succession.
Attorney General Miller says the decision warrants some research, but Reynolds has complied with his main constitutional concern about who should become governor if Reynolds is unable to serve.
“That is the fundamental question,” Miller said. “That is the constitutional question and she has complied with our opinion fully in that regard.”
Miller says Reynolds is fully authorized to assign duties to Gregg as she chooses.
Gregg is 34 years old and a native of Hawarden. He served as a policy advisor to the Branstad administration before being named to head the Public Defender’s office.
He was the youngest department head on the Branstad team.
The Reynolds administration will be referring to Gregg as lieutenant governor, not acting lieutenant governor.
At a statehouse news conference, Gregg downplayed the controversy.
“I am so honored and so humbled to be chosen for this important role,” Gregg said. “Call it what you want, it won't change the way I serve.”
Reynolds aides continue to criticize the attorney general’s ruling as politically-motivated. But they said defying it would likely result in an expensive lawsuit.
“When they’re small and petty, we’re big and steady,” said deputy chief of staff Tim Albrecht.
Gregg will be paid the $103,000 lieutenant governor’s salary. He will not be provided trooper escort as other lieutenant governors have in the past.