2019 Legislative Session - Week 4

Posted on Monday, February 11, 2019

Once again, legalized sports betting is top of minds for Iowa legislators.  Over the course of two two-hour hearings on eight different sports betting bills (HSB101, HSB102, HSB103, HSB124 SSB1080, SSB1081, SSB1079, and SSB1100), House and Senate lawmakers heard pitches from the Iowa Lottery, casinos, and sports leagues about who should regulate, oversee, and offer sports betting options in Iowa.  Senate State Government Committee Chair Roby Smith (R-Davenport) and House State Government Committee Chair Rep. Bobby Kaufmann (R-Wilton) are heading GOP efforts to explore a regulated sports betting system in Iowa.  After long stretches of testimony on all eight bills, Smith and Kaufmann scratched the competing proposals and said they would work together on a new bill.  Legislatures across the country have been considering the issue since a U.S. Supreme Court ruling lifted a federal ban on sports betting last May.

Meanwhile, lawmakers are poised to bring school funding bills to the floor next week.  Majority Republicans in both chambers agreed to a nearly $90 million increase in K-12 spending.  The bulk of the funding, $78 million, would go to State School Aid—a 2.06 percent increase from last fiscal year.  School districts facing disproportionately high costs for student transportation would receive $7.8 million.  The rest would go toward other student equity spending.  The funding is slightly less than the $93 million proposed by Governor Kim Reynolds in her Condition of the State address. 

Republican proposals that would change the nomination process for Iowa judges are making their way through the House and Senate. Currently, under the state’s merit selection process, the governor appoints eight members to the Judicial Nominating Commission, and the Iowa State Bar Association appoints eight attorneys.  The new bills (HSB 110 and SSB 1101) would remove the bar association from the process, and instead allow Republican and Democratic leadership in the House and Senate to appoint the other eight members. GOP lawmakers say the measures will guard against judicial activism and provide more accountability to voters.  Democrats argue the bills politicize an appointment process that has become a nationwide model.