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Make Up Your Mind

May 11, 2017
by Dan Voigt , Emmetsburg News

Here in Iowa, we enjoy so many things that we often take for granted. We have spacious countryside, rolling hills, beautiful sunsets and sunrises, and for the most part, a certain common sense about issues.

You'll notice I said, "for the most part" just a moment ago.

Normally, when an issue comes up at most any level in our state, common sense can come up with an agreeable solution for all parties involved most of the time. But in the past few days, another one of those 'not so ordinary' issues has come up again, and now, Iowa is sitting in an unenviable position of having some discord - at the highest levels of our state's government.

The issue is all about how one interprets the law, more or less.

Late last year, Governor Terry E. Branstad was nominated to become the next United States Ambassador to China. The Governor, who has a long history of public service to the state and its' residents, also has a great relationship with the government of China through Iowa's trade missions and relationships with the country.

Governor Branstad has made numerous trips to China to foster and build on those trade relations between Iowa and China, and through those efforts, has become well-respected by the Chinese government and at the upper levels of the U.S. Government as well.

In the past week, Governor Branstad participated in a confirmation hearing in Washington, DC, for the ambassador's position. On a voice vote of the confirmation panel, Branstad was approved unanimously, clearing the way for formal Congressional approval in the next few days.

Branstad has said once he is officially appointed, he will resign as the Governor of the State of Iowa.

Therein lies the root of our latest dilemma.

Under the Code of Iowa, when and if the Governor is no longer able to conduct the duties of the office or steps down from the office, the Lieutenant Governor then becomes the Governor of the State of Iowa. Kim Reynolds has been serving as the Lieutenant Governor for several years and is more than qualified to assume the leadership of the state.

But when this whole scenario was first introduced late last year, Iowa's Attorney General, Tom Miller, cited the Code of Iowa's provisions for succession of the office of Governor and Lieutenant Governor, stating when Governor Branstad resigned, Lt. Governor Reynolds would become the Governor, and then would appoint a new Lieutenant Governor to fill her vacant office.

But just a couple of weeks ago, Miller changed his mind, and said that Reynolds could not appoint a new Lieutenant Governor after she becomes Governor. But at the same time, the Code of Iowa clearly states that the governor has the authority to make that appointment.

Various members of the State Legislature are also confused by the issue, and have gone on record pointing out the succession rules are clearly spelled out in the Code of Iowa.

So the debate rages on.

I?spent a year as an employee of the Iowa Department of Public Safety's Iowa State Patrol, and the first thing I?learned on my first day of employment as a state employee was this: "Do what the book says. Even if it's wrong, do what the book says. Common sense is not tolerated."

He made a very valid point. The State Patrol was a quasi-military style organization, with an established command structure and procedures developed to address almost every conceivable situation.

My boss hammered that point home - but with a caveat - sometimes, common sense is the right answer, but you have to make it fit the book.

But, in my year of employment, I?was faced with a situation not covered specifically by "The Book" - the crash of United Flight 232 in June of 1989 in Sioux City. A 16-hour shift of duty on that tragic day required a lot of creativity to address that crash and response of hundreds of first responders. There were calls that were made that pushed the limits of "The Book", to be sure, but the end result was that people survived an incredible tragedy, and we as a state proved that we are a compassionate and caring people.

It occurs to me that the current question about how to appoint a new Lieutenant Governor fits that caveat perfectly, even though common sense plays a huge role in determining what is right and what isn't in this situation.

To those who are trying to decided what approach to take in this issue, please make up your minds and do what is right for the people that you were elected to serve -us.



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