Legislative leaders are offering widely different reactions to the lawsuit. A top Republican in the state Senate says this lawsuit spells the end of any attempt among lawmakers to make concessions to the industry.
Senate Co-President Jeff Lamberti, a Republican from Ankeny, says he fully expected a lawsuit, regardless of what legislators did. “It’s not a big surprise,” Lamberti says. But Senate Co-Leader Mike Gronstal, a Democrat from Council Bluffs, says discussions of a legislative solution that might avoid a protracted court battle are not over.
Gronstal says there was a tipping point this week, however, when Republican leaders in the Senate said they were done talking. “I think (TouchPlay investors) were holding off on filing a lawsuit and I think that led them to the conclusion that they need to communicate that this is real and they will, in fact, file a lawsuit and they have,” Gronstal says. “Some people asked me about that and I said it would seem that that’s an appropriate response.”
The Iowa House has passed a bill that would let the TouchPlay machines operate ’til September 1st, an attempt to let the businesses that bought the machines recoup more of their investment. For the past two weeks, legislative leaders have been talking privately with the state’s attorney general about a settlement that might help small businesses recover their losses, and avoid lawsuits.
House Speaker Christopher Rants, a Republican from Sioux City, says the lawsuit makes on-going discussions difficult, but not possible. “House Republicans passed the legislation that we did because we have a concern about small businesses and trying to mitigate some of the damages that they feel they’re incurring,” the speaker says.
Rants says the company that filed the lawsuit is not part of the so-called “TouchPlay Coalition” that’s made up of most investors in the machines and has hired a Des Moines law firm that has been working with state lawmakers and the attorney general. “I still have an interest in trying to address their concerns, but having somebody actually file a lawsuit makes it a little bit more difficult,” Rants asys. “They’ve asked for an injunction. If they get that injunction that really does probably end any discussion of trying to help (TouchPlay investors) out in the legislative process.”
Gronstal says he and the other 24 Democrats in the Iowa Senate will continue to work on a settlement package. “We do not believe this issue is dead,” Gronstal says. However, Gronstal says there’s no chance of a complete reversal on the part of legislators. “TouchPlay machines are going away in relatively short order,” he says.