FANTASY SPORTS BETTING: An Iowa House subcommittee sent a plan to license, regulate and tax fantasy sports betting to the full Ways and Means Committee despite arguments that any expansion of gambling is a “detriment to society.”
That put church-affiliated groups and some gaming interests on the same page in opposing House File 613. It would have the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals license and regulate fantasy sports betting.
Fantasy sports betting operators would be charged a 7.5 percent tax, which the Legislative Services Agency estimated would generate between $160,000 and $535,000 in state revenue, depending on the level of participation by Iowans.
Gambling “attracts the young and naive” and is a form of regressive taxation, according to Bruce Carter, a lobbyist for the United Methodist Conference.
The Iowa Gaming Association opposed the bill on the grounds that the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission should oversee fantasy sports betting just as it licenses and regulates casinos.
Lobbyists for DraftKings and FanDuel said many Iowans already participate in fantasy sports betting and the law to legalize it would allow the state to regulate and tax the activity.
PROTECTING CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE: Iowans who damage or try to damage infrastructure deemed critical to the safety and economic well-being of Iowans could face a criminal charge carrying a 25-year prison term or fine of up to $100,000 under a bill that cleared a Senate Judiciary subcommittee Thursday.
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Senate Study Bill 3062 would pertain to acts of sabotage committed against critical infrastructure or facilities related to communications, electricity, water, wastewater, energy and hazardous materials, along with associated systems that are “crucial lifeline systems” that affect Iowans.
Supporters pointed to actions taken against equipment during last year’s construction of an underground oil pipeline as an example of why legislation is needed.
John Benson of the state Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management said the change is designed to fix “a bit of a hole” in Iowa’s criminal code. He noted the Iowa Code includes criminal charges and penalties for terrorism, arson, burglary and criminal mischief, but “critical infrastructure” is not specified in the language.
Subcommittee members approved the bill but sought language to clarify intent to exempt accidental damage and to consider expanding the bill to include transportation such as airports, railroads and interstate bridges.
“We think it provides an effective deterrent for people that are interested in maybe undertaking action against critical infrastructure — things that we view that are lifeline things that Iowans need to survive,” Benson said. “If you take an action against it, we feel there should be an appropriate penalty put in place for that action.”
Subcommittee chairman Sen. Tom Shipley, R-Nodaway, said the bill was not intended to impede legal, peaceful and legitimate protests, but rather sought to target things such as terrorist threats “that could crash our infrastructure, disrupt the economy and put lives in peril.”
The bill now goes to the full committee for consideration.
RIGHT TO BEAR ARMS: A proposed amendment to the Iowa Constitution to clarify Iowans’ right to bear and use arms cleared a House Judiciary subcommittee Thursday.
If HJR 13, is approved in two consecutive sessions of the Legislature, it would go be submitted to voters their approval, perhaps as early as 2020.
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The amendment states that the state “affirms and recognizes the fundamental right of the people to acquire, keep, possess, transport, carry, transfer, and use arms for all legitimate purposes. Any and all restrictions of this right shall be subject to strict scrutiny.”
Rep. Matt Windschitl, R-Missouri Valley, said it’s not his intent to negate gun regulations. The amendment would, however, clarify the rights Iowans already enjoy and define how they are to be able to defend their life, liberty and property.
Rep, Liz Bennett, D-Cedar Rapids, opposed the bill, noting her concerns about the effect of the “strict scrutiny” language. For example, she said, it could be used to challenge existing law.
Among the 44 states with similar gun rights amendments, only three have “strict scrutiny” language, Bennett said.
The amendment was supported by the Iowa Firearms Coalition, but opposed by the Iowa Catholic and United Methodist conferences, and the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa Action Fund. Its lobbyist, Connie Ryan, warned the amendment “opens up a whole new can of worms.”
GAS PRICES RISE: The price of retail gasoline in Iowa rose 2 cents this week to $2.55 per gallon — which was the same increase and average price paid nationally, according to survey data released by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.
One year ago, the price of gas was 21 cents higher.
Retail diesel fuel prices in Iowa rose a penny from last week’s price, with a statewide average of $2.94 a gallon — well above the price of $2.48 but slightly below the national average of $2.95.
Propane prices were a penny higher than last week’s price for a statewide average of $1.52 per gallon; home heating oil prices rose a penny from last week’s figures, ending with a statewide average of $2.48; and natural gas prices rose 11 cents to $3.36/mmBtu.