Iowa House votes for free pond fishing

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DES MOINES — The Iowa House on Monday kicked off the seventh week of the 2016 session by approving bills to make buying lottery tickets easier and another bill to make pond fishing free.

Touch-screen lottery machines should result in an additional $30.5 million in revenue for Iowa Lottery the next two fiscal years, increasing total revenue to $321.5 million, according to a fiscal note from the Legislative Services Bureau. That will mean about $6.2 million more transferred to the state general fund.

The self-serve kiosks will replace older pull tabs and scratch ticket vending machines and allow lottery players to buy Powerball tickets, too, according to Rep. Quentin Stanerson, R-Center Point, who floor managed House File 2146. The kiosks will not dispense cash.

It passed 87-10.

Pond fishing ran into rougher waters as Rep. Phyllis Thede, D-Bettendorf, warned that allowing people to fish for free as long as they had the pond owner’s permission would put a hole in the Department of Natural Resource’s budget.

Currently, the owners and minor children can fish free. Everyone else is required to have a license.

The DNR told lawmakers the Fish and Game Protection Fund would lose about $808,000 year in fishing license fees if the law was changed. That’s based on a fiscal note estimating a 10 percent loss in fishing license sales.

“We’re literally ridding ourselves of the DNR,” Thede said.

Floor Manager Rep. Norlin Mommsen, R-Dewitt, said there is no data to support the fiscal note. Allowing people to fish for free on private lakes and ponds will “act as a recruitment tool” for fish license sales later, he said.

It’s a question of fairness, Rep. Scott Ourth, D-Ackworth, argued. If people can fish for free on private lakes and ponds, why require them to buy a license to hunt on private land.

Representatives voted 55-42 largely along party lines to approve the bill. One Republican voted against the bill.

The House voted 97-0 to allow funeral directors to forward information about cremated remains that have not been claimed within 180 days to the Department of Veterans Affairs to determine if the deceased is a veteran.

If the remains are those of a veteran, the funeral director shall transfer them to a veteran’s organization for internment.

Representatives also voted 96-0 to change rules about electioneering near satellite absentee voting station and absentee voting sites. Current law prohibits electioneering within 300 feet of those voting sites. The bill expands the prohibition to include voting sites at the offices of the county commissioner of elections.

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