Iowa Governor vetoes proposed limits on Attorney General's Office

DES MOINES, Iowa- Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds has stricken a provision from a bill that would have limited the powers of Attorney General Tom Miller. Governor Reynolds signed the justice appropriations bill this morning, but used her veto power to cut a provision that would change the powers of the A-G's office when it comes to joining lawsuits outside the state. The provision would have required the Attorney General to join lawsuits only if requested to do so by the legislature, executive council or the Governor.

Governor Reynolds says Attorney General Miller has agreed not to 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. Miller may participate in litigation or author letters in his own name, as Attorney General of Iowa.

Attorney General Tom Miller released a statement on the decision:

Today I have entered into a compromise agreement with Gov. Kim Reynolds concerning lawsuits filed by my office. I do so for the following reasons.

The legislation would limit the ability of my office and my successors to bring litigation outside the state courts of Iowa. My greater concern was always about the institution of the Attorney General and its powers and duties. My successors were always more important than the current Attorney General. By vetoing the legislation, Governor Reynolds is protecting this interest and concern. A long time ago when I was first elected Attorney General of Iowa, my elders — the other state Attorneys General — preached to me the importance of the powers and duties of our office and the great obligation to protect those powers and duties. I will not be haunted by the ghosts of my elders. 

While I am Attorney General, I agree to get the consent of the Governor to bring out of state cases when the State of Iowa is the plaintiff, but not when the Attorney General of Iowa is the plaintiff. This means that generally I will not be suing the Trump administration. I brought a selective number of lawsuits against the Trump administration in the last two-plus years. I believe they were well grounded in the law. According to the available polling data, these cases, such as the ones concerning the Dreamers and separating children from parents, were supported by a majority of Iowans. The cases were also supported by Iowans in their overwhelming re-election of me just last November. I am reassured by the fact that the cases will continue to be brought by my 26 Democratic Attorney General colleagues, and they will do a very effective job.

This agreement allows my office to continue to protect Iowans through consumer enforcement actions, which are primarily filed in Iowa courts. It also allows me to express my opinion on matters affecting Iowans before federal agencies and Congress.

This is a good-faith agreement between Governor Reynolds and me. In my opinion, there are too few good-faith compromises today in Washington and Des Moines. This also leads me to make this agreement.

State Representative Gary Worthan (R-Storm Lake) has also issued a statement:

“I appreciate that Governor Reynolds recognized the concerns we had and worked out an agreement that meets our goals.

If the Attorney General wants to continue participating in partisan lawsuits that aren’t in the best interest of Iowans, he needs let Iowans know that he is making that decision on his own.”

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