Senator questions keg proposal
District 52 Representative Mary Lou Freeman and District 26 Senator Steve Kettering Saturday fielded questions issues ranging from Touch Play machines to beer keg registrations coming before the Iowa Legislature this session.
Freeman and Kettering offered their views on how this session is going during the legislative brunch sponsored by the Storm Lake Area Development Corporation at the Lakeshore Cafe.
The controversy over Touch Play machines continues to be a real hot topic, Freeman said, noting that the issue will probably not ultimately be decided in the legislature but in the courts.
"There are strong feelings both ways," Freeman said. "I don't feel that you can take out what already has been put in," Freeman said.
"It's a very, very difficult issue," Kettering said. He said at one high school he asked how many of the students had played Touch Play machines and a good number raised their hands.
"We have a lot of problems along that line that need to be ironed out," Kettering said about access by minors to the machines. "There are bills on the floor to completely removed them from the state." However, Kettering also noted that the sponsors of those bills were from districts that had casinos, the natural competitors of Touch Play machines. "It's one of those hot potatoes that no one saw coming," Kettering said.
City of Storm Lake Public Safety Director Mark Prosser said that while the law enforcement community would like to see more proceeds for law enforcement, he and his peers were concerned about having revenue come from gaming.
Diane Hamilton of Storm Lake, chair of the State Racing and Gaming Commission, acknowledged the conflict over Touch Play machines.
"We've got millions of dollars that have been invested in this state," Hamilton said.
She also noted that some small businesses depended heavily on proceeds from Touch Play machines. In addition, Hamilton said the Touch Play machines distributed throughout the state were not the same as those shown to the Oversight Committee.
Mike Wilson of Storm Lake asked about any bills that would raise pickup fee registrations.
"I don't think that will fly," Kettering said, noting both "fairness" and "tax increase" issues.
While revenues from increased pickup registration fees, now capped at a fraction of other vehicles, could provide needed revenue, Freeman noted the proposal would face stiff opposition. "It is politically so hot a topic," Freeman said.
"If you want to know why Bill Clinton lost the Arkansas governor's race it was that particular issue," Kettering said. "As much as I can tell, it will probably die."
Freeman said the issue could even make a difference in close races for a candidate "And not-so-close races", Freeman added.
Kettering said he opposed a proposed beer keg registration bill.
"It just moves people from buying kegs to buying 24 packs," Kettering said. Instead, Kettering suggested that penalties could be raised for those selling alcohol to minors.
Kettering said while Vision Iowa was a one-time fund and will not be renewed, there will be $5 million in gaming and $7 million in franchise tax funding for Community Attractions and Tourism grants. "It will be in this year's budget," Kettering said.
Freeman, chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, said the state was missing millions of dollars in federal dollars for veteran benefits. "We are losing literally millions in federal benefits," Freeman said.
Kettering noted another impact was on employers. He said there were discussions in the House as to the impact of Guard call-ups on employers.
Kettering also expressed frustration over gridlock in the Senate this session.
"The last two weeks can be an example of what an even split (between parties) can do," Kettering said. "It's a very, very tenuous thing."