The Iowa House has voted to expand the buffet of gambling games at the state’s race tracks, but stopped short of allowing more riverboat casinos in Iowa. The bill that cleared the House last night would allow table games like Black Jack and roulette at the tracks, but it dashed the hopes of folks in five Iowa counties who want a new gambling boat in their area. Representative Mary Mascher, a democrat from Iowa City, says Iowans have a lot of “misgivings” about gambling expansion. Mascher says the people back home are telling legislators to look at other ways to stabilize Iowa’s economy. Representative Ed Fallon, a democrat from Des Moines, opposed the expansion of gambling at the tracks. Fallon says some have described gambling as a critical component of Iowa’s economy, but he says gambling doesn’t generate new wealth. Representative Danny Carroll, a republican from Grinnell, reluctantly supported the deal, which included the moratorium on new licenses that he sought. Carroll says he didn’t get a “full loaf,” but “compromise is tough.” Carroll called the House debate “gut-wrenching” for people like him who do not want to see gambling expanded because they had to compromise and accept some expansion. But Representative Don Shoultz, a democrat from Waterloo, says his town looks at how Dubuque has benefitted from gambling, and wants a piece of that action with its own riverboat. Representative Mary Gaskill, a democrat from Ottumwa, says her town would like to have a gambling boat as a tourist destination. Gaskill says the jobs on the boat would pay $10 or $11 an hour, and she says they’re not hard labor like the jobs at the Ottumwa meatpacking plant which pay the same wage. The bill that does not allow any more gambling licenses in Iowa passed the House on a 73 to 26 vote. It now goes to the Senate.
Archives for February 2004
Linn County Sheriff Don Zeller is taking a new approach to dealing with lean budget times. Zeller’s going after overdue fines, tickets and other money owed to government agencies in the county. Zeller says the county attorney can go after any overdue bill the state can’t collect that’s six months old. He says the county attorney was doing the job for several years, but then it became too much of a problem. The Sheriff decided to take it over in his office July 1st so things wouldn’t get behind. He has about 500 accounts and payment plans set up for people to pay. Zeller says he’s been successful in getting the money back. So far, they’ve collected over $110,000 in past due court fines. Zeller says he has a variety of tools available for collecting the delinquent fines that other agencies don’t have. He says they can garnish their wages, tie up their income tax checks or hold up their motor vehicle registration — things only the sheriff is allowed to do under law. Zeller says denying gun permits to people who have overdue fines has also proved to be a quick way to get them to pay up. Zeller says he’s assigned one person in his office to write a detailed letter to the offender to let them know what they owe. He says that seems to work better than a form letter from the court system. He says not too many people want the sheriff tracking them down. And he says, “most people that’re halfway decent, but have just gotten into a little bit of trouble and owe these do not want to go back to jail. That’s probably the biggest deterrent there is.” Zeller says collecting the overdue fines is a problem statewide. He says there’s about $60-million owed the court system in the State of Iowa. Zeller says we could have more judges and clerk of courts offices open if we collected some of this fine money. Zeller admits it takes a little more work at a time when most sheriff’s departments are already stretched thin — but he feels it’s worth the investment in time. He says this money has to be collected so there’s some type of deterrent. He says if someone is sentenced to do 10 years in the prison system and does only 18 months, then there’s no deterrent to the crime. He says it’s important to collect the money so the counties don’t have to raise taxes. Zeller says he’s talking with some other counties about his collection system, and how they can use it, too.
Iowa dignitaries will be on hand for the grand opening today (Friday) of a new ethanol plant, the 11th for the state of Iowa. Hanlontown Mayor Rick Scholbrock says they broke ground in April 2003 with a timetable of one year for completion. He says it’s been a short year watching all the construction, while it seemed like a long year for everyone waiting for the plant to go online. Mayor Scholbrock says he promised residents in north-central Iowa they’d make money from the $60-million plant, and it’s already happening. He says by luring in a major manufacturer there was construction work, business for local restaurants, gas stations and motels making money for local people, and now the plant’s beginning production it’ll be time for the farmers to make money. The plant’s located northwest of Hanlontown on a 230-acre site. General Manager Tim Voegele says the plant’s good news for local farmers. He says the plant has a capacity of 45-Million gallons of ethanol a year, and he hopes to make more than that, using all the productivity and efficiencies possible. Voegele says the plant means about 40 new jobs in the region, and a market for locally-grown crops. To make those 45-Million gallons, it’ll take 16-Million bushels of corn a year, and Voegele says he hopes to buy it all locally, adding that’s already having a positive effect on prices.
Iowa parents, school leaders and retailers are being warned about a rising trend in teen drug abuse. Tammy Noble, spokeswoman for the Iowa Statewide Poison Control Center, says they’re getting more calls about kids experimenting with over-the-counter cough and cold medications that contain detromethorphan, also known as D-M. Noble, a registered nurse from Sioux City, says D-M is a common cough suppressant that’s found in more than 100 cough and cold medicines. She says more Iowa teens and even young adults in their 20s are trying to get what’s described as an “L-S-D high” off the drug. Noble says D-M has been abused for years through liquid cough syrups, but it’s been rediscovered in recent weeks, by word of mouth and via the Internet. A few years ago, kids were slugging down bottles of cough syrups like Robitussin, but now the D-M comes in tablet form as well, most popularly in Coricidin H-B-P. Kids are popping 15 of those at a time. Noble says parents should be on the lookout for boxes of the stuff and for warning signs in their behavior. High doses of D-M will bring narcotic effects, including: drowsiness, slurred speech, unsteady gait, slowed breathing and even a coma. It also raises the heart rate and could bring hallucinations, confusion and involuntary, rapid eye movement. She says once a person has started showing these symptoms, there’s little that can be done, other than to take them to a hospital and have the situation monitored, in case their condition worsens into a coma.
Day two of the state high school wrestling tournament is underway in Des Moines with action this morning in class 1A. Pocahontas Area brought seven wrestlers to the tournament, they have four in the quarterfinals and two in the wrestle backs. They have the first day lead with 20 team points. Belle Plaine brought the most wrestlers with eight. Six are in the quarterfinals with one in the wrestle backs and are one of three teams tied for second place with 18 points. Defending 1A champion Hudson and Don Bosco of Gilbertville are tied for second place. Hudson has all five wrestlers in the quarterfinals, while the Dons have four in the quarters and two in the wrestle backs. Pocahontas Area coach Mitch Parker was pleased to see four of his wrestlers advance to the quarterfinals. He says each of the seven battled hard, and he says he’s real proud of the ones that bounced back.Belle Plaine had six of eight wrestlers win first round matches. Just a year ago coach Bob Yilek’s team has just one qualifier for the state meet. He says they weren’t pleased with that and decided to come back hard. Yilek was pleased with the first round results, as he says his team stayed focused and worked hard. The 3A quarterfinal round is underway at Vets and day two will conclude with the 2A quarterfinals this evening.
The Iowa State wrestling team closes out its dual season tonight as the fourth-ranked Cyclones host number-two Nebraska. I-S-U has posted a 15-4 dual mark to this point and coach Bobby Douglas says tonight’s matchup is a good test heading into the Big-12 Tournament a week from Saturday in Ames. He says it’s a battle for seeds and they’ll face some of the same people they’ll face in the conference tournament and the national tournament.Douglas says with so many wrestlers from each squad nationally ranked the outcome of tonight’s matches will have an effect on seeding at the conference tournament. And he says it could give them a big boost in momentum. Nebraska has a dual record of 19-2.
The Iowa Hawkeye women open the final week of the regular season at fourth ranked Purdue tonight. At 9-5, the Hawks are part of a four-way logjam for third in the conference standings and after tonight will close the regular season at Illinois on Sunday. Hawkeye coach Lisa Bluder says they have so much respect for the conference that they’d be thrilled to have an opportunity to finish third. She says one loss can make a difference and feels one win this week would be good enough for the Hawks to get into the NCAA Tournament. She says you never know what’s going to happen with the selection committee, but she says if you finish in fourth place in the conference, it’s hard to see how you couldn’t go to the tournament. Purdue is 13-1 and tied with Penn State at the top of the conference standings.
Warring sides in the statehouse gambling debate have apparently struck a deal. But that deal squeezes out the five Iowa counties that have passed referendums in hopes of landing a new gambling operation in their area. The proposal would bar any new gambling operations, while at the same time allow the state’s race track casinos to add table games to their casinos. Representative Scott Raecker, a republican from Urbandale, says the gambling bill has “evolved” into something a bit different than it started out to be. Raecker says the proposal provides “equity and parity” to the state’s gambling industry. The proposal would set the tax rate for the race tracks in Altoona and Council Bluffs at 24 percent, if both, as expected, add table games. The track in Dubuque would pay a 22 percent state tax on adjusted gross receipts. The tax rate for all the riverboats would go up a tad to 22 percent, and eventually all the gambling boats could become stationary. Representative Ed Fallon, a democrat from Des Moines, was among those who wanted to “put the brakes” on any gambling expansion. Fallon says he’s “fascinated” by how much time the Legislature spends talking about gambling issues. Another amendment to be considered this afternoon (Thursday) or evening would allow up to five new riverboat gambling facilities in the state.
The effort to build a performing arts center in southwest Iowa is getting a boost from a favorite son and former top entertainer. Former “Tonight Show” host Johnny Carson is giving the Performing Arts and Education Association in Red Oak what executive director Sally Foss calls a substantial donation. Foss sought the help after learning of Carson’s generosity for other area projects. She says she got the address to Carson’s foundation and wrote the most persuasive letter she could. She says Carson called back, but she hadn’t been able to make it into the office because of snow. She called him back and Carson answered and said he was interested in funding the project. Foss says there was one aspect of the center that really appealed to Carson. She says that was the classroom/rehearsal space. It’s the same size as the performance stage, so people can rehearse on the same size space on which they’ll perform. The proposed center will cost five-and-a-half million dollars. Foss says Carson asked that the dollar amount of his donation not be revealed. She says Carson said he does not want his name on the building as he says it would distract from the reason they’re there, and it doesn’t matter who gave the money, it matters what happens in the facility. She says she asked if they could use his name in the media and she says Carson asked, “Do you think it will help?” She told him of course it would help. Carson has made a series of donations to projects in southwest Iowa, including 75-thousand dollars to a skatepark in Corning — the city where he was born in 1925.
A northwest Iowa police chief charged with domestic abuse assault is now on paid leave. The Laurens City Council met in special session to address charges against 57-year-old Rodney Watkins. The mayor put Watkins on administrative leave pending his court appearance March 15th. Watkins was arrested Sunday on domestic abuse assault charges. Two other officers will cover Watkins’ shift, and one has been appointed acting chief.