Sports Betting Discussion Ongoing
One of the biggest issues that the Legislature is considering this session is whether the state should legalize sports betting. This conversation became a possibility last year after the United States Supreme Court struck down a federal law that prohibited gambling on professional and college sports.
There are many factors to consider in this debate so it is important that we take our time and give all interested parties a chance to weigh in. This is a new topic for the Legislature to consider and the House Majority wants to hear from their constituents and communities.
To thoroughly vet this topic, the House is using a transparent process and listening to all Iowans interested in the discussion.
Last week, the House State Government Committee held a two-hour subcommittee meeting on sports betting and heard arguments from Iowa’s casinos, the religious community, the Iowa Lottery, the horse racing industry, and concerned Iowa citizens, among many others.
Subcommittee members are now taking information they heard at the meeting to develop and propose legislation for the House to consider.
What have we learned so far?
Sports betting is going on regardless of whether or not it is legal. Nationwide, it is estimated that legal and illegal gambling on sports is a $150 billion industry. It is up to the Legislature to decide if and how they want to regulate this type of activity, bring it out of the shadows, and help those who may suffer from addiction get treatment.
Sports betting will not create a tax windfall for the state. In the states that have already legalized this type of gaming, actual tax receipts have fallen far behind estimates. Banking on this revenue to fund something substantial or long-term is premature.
The House Majority will continue listening to Iowans as we move forward on the issue of sports betting.
Snow Days Hitting Schools Hard – Shat are the options?
After a mild beginning to the winter season, January hit the state hard with successive snow storms that blanketed the state in snow and cold. And with it came schools closings statewide. At a forum last week I was asked about the state waving days missed this school year. In the past few years, we have passed legislation that gives the school districts some options to address this issue.
The Department of Education doesn’t keep track of days called off school for weather, so hard numbers don’t exist. In District 96 our schools have had to cancel 10-12 days to date depending on the district.
School calendars are set locally by the school board with a few parameters from the state. Specifically those parameters are starting after August 23rd and counting the school year in either hours (1080) or days (180).
The Department of Education did put out a refresher on what options schools have now that they’re faced with longer school years because of weather-related closures.
Some of the more common ones are:
- Can the Governor pardon or the Department waive snow days? No, neither the Governor nor the Department have that authority. The number of days or hours is set in state law and can’t be side-stepped.
- Can schools use “e-learning” wherein a student accesses lessons or other school work from home through digital means? No, this wouldn’t count as instruction. Instruction must take place under the guidance and instruction of instructional staff at school. E-learning can also present equity of access concerns for students without proper equipment or connections, those with disabilities, or younger students who can’t self-guide.
How can districts make up those days without going to far into the beginning of summer? There are a few options, each depending on how the district’s calendar is currently setup and other local factors:
- They can add time to end of the remaining school days to make up any hours missed if they are using an hours-based calendar
- They can add weekend days, regardless of calendar type
- They can shorten or eliminate previously planned breaks, regardless of calendar type
Keeping in mind, districts must have a public hearing to change calendar, just as they do to set the calendar before the year.
Snow and cold in Iowa are not new concepts and many districts plan their calendars accordingly. They often build in extra days or hours to ensure that should closures occur, they can still meet the minimum requirements in law. For those that are extended, there are other options that can be taken to ensure all students are given equal opportunity for obtaining a good education in our schools.