DES MOINES, Iowa — Governor Kim Reynolds on Wednesday vetoed a measure that would have limited the powers of Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller to join lawsuits outside of Iowa, including those against the Trump Administration.
Reynolds signed a budget bill into law funding Iowa’s justices systems but line-item vetoed a policy piece GOP lawmakers approved in the final days of session designed to restrict the attorney general’s power. It would have required Miller to get approval from the governor, the legislature or the executive council before joining any out-of-state lawsuits.
Miller, who is a Democrat, and Reynolds, a Republican, instead have agreed in “good faith” that Miller will consult the governor if he wishes to join any lawsuits or author amicus briefs on behalf of the state of Iowa. Miller still has the authority to take legal action in his own name as the Attorney General of Iowa.
"This is a good-faith agreement between Governor Reynolds and me." Miller said in a statement. "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."
The agreement between Reynolds and Miller is for the duration of Miller’s time serving in the capacity as attorney general. The two met privately ahead of her decision to veto the provision Wednesday.
Reynolds said that she agrees with concerns of some GOP lawmakers about past actions of Miller in joining lawsuits outside of Iowa, including those against the Trump Administration. That was the focus of Republicans who introduced the proposal at the Iowa capitol.
"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," Reynolds, in part, said in a statement. “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."
Attorneys general in other states, both Republicans and Democrats, urged Reynolds to veto the provision in the bill. Miller’s office contends no other state in the country has a similar policy targeting the attorney general’s power.
In 2018, Miller joined six multi-state lawsuits challenging the Trump Administration and its policies, including separating families at the United States southern border and requiring a citizenship question on the 2020 census, according to the attorney general's office.
Republican lawmakers pointed to these actions as the reason for their seeking to curb the attorney general's powers.
Rep. Gary Worthan, R-Storm Lake, who introduced the measure, wrote in a statement he "appreciates" that Gov. Reynolds recognized Republicans' concerns 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," Worthan said.