DES MOINES, Iowa — Governor Kim Reynolds has killed a controversial provision from an appropriations bill that would have limited the powers of Attorney General Tom Miller.
Governor Reynolds signed SF 615, a justice systems appropriation bill, on Wednesday morning. However she used her veto power to eliminate a provision to the bill that would changed the powers of the office of the Attorney General in Iowa. According to the provision, the Attorney General would only be allowed to join lawsuits outside the state of Iowa if the action was requested by the legislature, executive council or the Governor.
Had the provision been approved, Iowa would be the only state to put such limits on an Attorney General. Governor Reynolds said earlier this week that she had heard from numerous other attorneys general about the provision.
The Governor included the following “transmittal letter” after vetoing the provision, explaining her reasoning:
“I share many of the concerns expressed by members of the Legislature about the past actions of Attorney General Tom Miller in courts outside of Iowa. He has participated in litigation throughout the nation, repeatedly taking positions in the name of the State of Iowa that are in conflict with Iowa’s statutes, the policy goals of the Legislature and Governor, and the best interests of Iowans. But I am cautious about approving a provision that redefines the scope of the Attorney General’s duties because I am mindful that the Attorney General is also elected by, and directly accountable to, the people of Iowa.
“As a result of the Legislature’s leadership on this issue, Attorney General Miller and I have had the opportunity to engage in a thoughtful discussion about the appropriate balance of authority between the Governor and the Attorney General with respect to Iowa’s involvement in litigation. And ultimately, Attorney General Miller agreed to my proposal to adjust our litigation practices in a manner that I believe addresses my core concerns without amending Iowa’s current statutes.
“Attorney General Miller has agreed that so long as he serves as Attorney General, he will not prosecute any action or proceeding or sign onto or author an amicus brief in the name of the State of Iowa in any court or tribunal other than an Iowa state court without the consent of the Governor. He retains the authority to participate in litigation or author letters in his own name, as Attorney General of Iowa. Attorney General Miller has also agreed that if the Governor requests that he prosecute an action or proceeding or file an amicus brief in any court, he will do so or facilitate outside counsel, and that such participation requested by the Governor shall be conducted in the name of the State of Iowa.
“This agreement is an appropriate interpretation of the authority and duties provided for under existing Iowa law and our constitutional structure. It ensures that the State of Iowa will speak with one consistent voice when it participates in court proceedings outside of our state. And it respects the Attorney General’s independent authority and accountability to the people of Iowa.
“I commend the Legislature for starting this important discussion and Attorney General Miller for his willingness to reevaluate our practices with respect to engaging in litigation on behalf of the State of Iowa. I look forward to working with Attorney General Miller to ensure that the State’s litigation advances the interests of Iowans.”
Miller was re-elected to office in 2018. No other officeholder won more votes in the general election in Iowa than Miller. He is the longest-serving Attorney General in US history.