Overview / Major Events
This week Governor Reynolds named the first person of color to ever serve on the Iowa Supreme Court. Iowa Appeals Court Judge Christopher McDonald (born in Thailand of a Scottish-Irish father and Vietnamese mother) will join the Iowa Supreme Court as its seventh member in the next few weeks.
Judge McDonald is Governor Reynolds second pick to the Iowa Supreme Court (of the remaining five, two were selected by Governor Branstad in 2011 and the remaining three chosen by previous administrations). At just 44 years of age, Judge McDonald could serve in this capacity for more than two decades.
Senator Jeff Danielson Abruptly Resigns from the Iowa Senate
Long time State Senator Jeff Danielson (D-Cedar Falls) abruptly resigned this week from both the Iowa Senate and his position as a fire fighter for the city of Cedar Falls, with little in the way of explanation. Danielson was serving in his fourth term in the Iowa Senate and said the resignations were necessary due to a dispute Cedar Falls fire fighters were having with the city government over a new city personnel policy.
Regardless, the resignation leaves Senate Democrats with just 17 members in the 50-member body. Governor Reynolds set March 19 as the date for a special election to select a replacement. The district is a swing seat, but did go for Democrats in the 2018 election cycle. There is speculation that former Republican State Representative Walt Rogers may run.
State Government Chairs Designate Casinos as Sports Wagering Hubs
After a great deal of discussion and two marathon subcommittees, legislation emerged this week from the respective Chairs of the House and Senate State Government Committees that would authorize legal sports betting in Iowa and allow Iowa’s licensed casino properties to serve as the hub (both in person and on mobile platforms) for running the sports betting industry in Iowa.
Also included in the legislation in both Chambers is legalization of fantasy sports betting in Iowa, a change long sought by the fantasy sports industry and a core of Iowa legislators. As with sports betting in Iowa casinos, fantasy sports betting would be regulated by the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission.
The bill does NOT include any sports betting role for the Iowa Lottery, the Iowa horse industry, or Iowa retailers. In addition, demands by professional sports leagues for “integrity fees” or mandated fees to access league data were rebuffed. The Senate State Government Committee passed SSB 1168 on a party line vote. It will now go to the Ways and Means Committee for further deliberation.