Iowa State Legislature adjourns 2022 session; three constitutional amendments could appear on 2024 ballot

The Iowa State Legislature adjourned its 2022 legislative session at 12:16am on May 25, 2022.

During the 2021-2022 legislative session, the General Assembly passed three constitutional amendments, which may appear on the 2024 ballot if they are passed a second time by the General Assembly during its 2023-2024 legislative session.

One amendment would provide that if the governor dies, resigns, or is removed from office, the lieutenant governor would assume the office of governor for the remainder of the term, thereby creating a vacancy in the office of lieutenant governor. Currently, in Iowa, if the governor leaves office, the lieutenant governor becomes responsible for fulfilling the duties and assumes the powers of the governor, but does not have the authority to appoint a new lieutenant governor.

Another amendment would provide that only a citizen of the U.S., rather than every citizen of the U.S., can vote in Iowa. It would also provide that 17-year-olds who will be 18 by the general election may vote in primary elections. In 2018 and 2020, constitutional amendments to state that only a citizen (rather than every citizen) can vote were approved in four states: Florida, Alabama, Colorado, and North Dakota. Similar amendments were proposed for the 2022 ballot in Oklahoma and Louisiana.

The third amendment passed by the Legislature during the 2021-2022 legislative session would add a section to the state constitution that says, “To defend and protect unborn children, we the people of the State of Iowa declare that this Constitution does not recognize, grant, or secure a right to abortion or require the public funding of abortion.”

To put a legislatively referred constitutional amendment on the ballot for voter ratification, a simple majority vote is required in both the Iowa State Senate and the Iowa House of Representatives in two successive legislative sessions with an election for state legislators in between. Every two years, half of the state senators and all of the members of the state House are up for election. Iowa has had a Republican trifecta since 2017, meaning the Republican Party controls the office of governor and both chambers of the state legislature.

When a constitutional amendment has passed the General Assembly in the first session and thus been referred to the succeeding legislature, the General Assembly is required by Article X of the Iowa Constitution to publish the amendment in two newspapers in each of Iowa’s congressional districts and on the legislature’s website once per month for three months.

Once an amendment is on the ballot, it must be approved by a simple majority of voters in order to become part of the constitution.

A constitutional amendment to add a right to firearms in the constitution was certified for the 2022 ballot after the measure was passed by the legislature during the 2019-2020 and 2021-2022 legislative sessions.

During the 20-year period from 2000 and 2020, five measures appeared on the ballot in Iowa. Of the five measures, two were approved and three were defeated. The measures appeared on the ballot in 2000 (one), 2008 (one), 2010 (two), and 2020 (one).

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