The Legislature starts work today with a handful of must-do items. The Senate is set to approve a gambling bill that lets the state Racing and Gaming Commission consider approving new riverboat operations for Iowa. The House tacked on a provision that forbids a riverboat in downtown Des Moines. Senate President Jeff Lamberti, a republican from Ankeny, says senators originally didn’t think a boat ban for downtown Des Moines was necessary.Lamberti says there’s already a city ordinance banning a casino boat in downtown Des Moines, but it’s something senators will now vote to make part of state law. An unresolved issue for lawmakers is state spending on schools. Republican House Speaker Christopher Rants of Sioux City is offering to give schools more money for the 2005/2006 school year if Democrat Governor Tom Vilsack will agree to some spending reforms. Rants says Vilsack keeps saying no, and “that’s a problem” according to Rants. But the biggest squabble is over something that popped up late last week. In a surprise move, the House voted to borrow another 60 million dollars for state economic development programs. Senate republicans don’t like it. Lamberti, the Senate President, says Iowa taxpayers would have to shell out 150 million over the next 15 years to get 60 million dollars today. Lamberti says “that’s not going to happen” because it’s an “irresponsible” borrowing scheme. House and Senate leaders hope to wrap up the 2004 Legislative session this week.
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