DES MOINES — The recent revelation that a state vehicle carrying Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds was clocked going 84 mph on a state highway has raised a number of questions, including: Should Iowa's top two elected officials buckle up next to each other?
There is no formal or informal state policy barring the two from traveling together, though they don't ever fly in the same plane, said the governor's spokesman, Tim Albrecht. But though Republicans Branstad and Reynolds enjoy a close working relationship, regularly traveling and appearing side by side at events across Iowa, their predecessors were often more cautious about joint travel.
“The advice of counsel and people helping us was that we should not be in the same vehicle traveling together or traveling by air together,” said Patty Judge, who served as lieutenant governor under then-Gov. Chet Culver, who served in office from 2007 through 2011. “The real single purpose for the lieutenant governor — although lieutenant governors do find things to do — but the single purpose is to maintain continuity of government. If, God forbid, anything happens to the governor, someone is there to step in at the same moment.”
If the governor and the lieutenant governor both were killed, the state's top job would go to the state Senate president, a position currently held by Democrat Pam Jochum of Dubuque.
Asked about the risk involved in Branstad and Reynolds driving together, Albrecht said the administration trusts the state troopers who chauffeur the governor and lieutenant governor.
“Iowa's top law enforcement officials will continue to transport the governor and lieutenant governor together, because this is in the best interest of taxpayers, and a duplication of vehicles and staff is expensive and unnecessary at this time,” Albrecht wrote in an email.
Rules on executive travel vary in neighboring states. It is the policy in Nebraska that the governor and lieutenant governor do not travel in the same vehicle. But in Minnesota, they are permitted to do so.
Judge also said that the Culver administration felt it was better that the two attend different events. Gov. Tom Vilsack's administration made a similar judgment call for the governor and his lieutenant governor, Sally Pederson, said longtime aide Matt Paul.
“They both had intense schedules and they both traveled a great deal around the state,” said Paul, who noted it was rare for the two to be in the same car during their eight years in office from 1999 through 2007, largely because of scheduling priorities.
At a recent press conference, Reynolds said the shared car travel was a good economic choice for taxpayers.
“We do (travel together) a lot. We also travel separately a lot. We're a very frugal administration,” Reynolds said.
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