Under the Golden Dome: Legalize It?

Feb 8, 2019

Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, wants to expand marijuana access in Iowa.  Bolkcom says marijuana should be regulated and taxed like alcohol. Other states have legalized marijuana use in some form but it is still illegal under federal law, and it is unlikely Iowa legislators will take action.

But legislators are considering bills that would legalize sports betting.  In May 2018 the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling that allows states to have this form of gambling. Eight states have legalized sports betting and Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton, wants Iowa to be next.

Four sports betting bills are discussed in Senate (SSB 1079, 1080, 1081, 1100) and House (HSB 101, 102, 103, 124) State Government Subcommittees. One would allow the Iowa Lottery to accept bets with equipment that is already in use in stores.  The subcommittees do not sign off on these bills. A single bill that incorporates some of their aspects will be written and brought before a new subcommittee.

Gov. Kim Reynolds doesn’t weigh in about these sports betting bills, but she does think betting needs to be regulated.

One bill Reynolds does support is one that changes how the Iowa Supreme Court justices are selected.  Right now there is a State Judicial Nominating Commission that selects nominees to sit on the Iowa Supreme Court and the Iowa Court of Appeals

The commission is chaired by a senior member of the Iowa Supreme Court with 16 members.

Eight are appointed by the governor, which are subject to Iowa Senate confirmation. The other eight are elected by lawyers spread equally across the state’s congressional districts.

A new proposal would no longer allow lawyers to select eight nominees. Instead, it would allow leaders in the legislature to do so.

Each of Iowa’s 14 judicial districts has a judicial nominating commission with 11 members.  Five are selected by the governor and five by lawyers who are part of the Iowa State Bar Association. The chief judge in the district serves as chair.

When there is a district judicial vacancy, the commission interviews candidates and selects three names to forward  to the governor. The governor then chooses who becomes a judge

The bill also proposes that legislative leaders, instead of lawyers, choose who sits on almost half of these judicial nominating commissions.

Sen. Julian Garrett, R-Indianola, is the author of this bill and says judges are inserting their own personal ideas when making rulings.  He says this is being done at the federal and state level, and his bill addresses this problem.