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News Analysis: February 28, 2008

posted on February 28, 2008 at 5:21 PM

Kay Henderson of Radio Iowa gives an update on the status of legislation to ban smoking in public places and proposed tax breaks for Microsoft to locate in Iowa.

Yeager: Here now, fresh from the late night Senate debate over smoking, is Kay Henderson of Radio Iowa.  And Kay, this is a debate, last week it was the House, this week it was the Senate, it has passed both chambers but the story is far from over.  What is next?

Henderson: Exactly, what's next is what the House decides to do with this bill.  If your viewers aren't up to speed the Senate this past week debated for about four hours and passed a bill that would enact a statewide smoking ban in most public places, businesses, bars, restaurants, even in the state's casinos and a smoking ban in the state's veteran's home as well as those VFW and Vets halls around the state.  When the bill passed the Iowa House of Representatives it did not forbid smoking in casinos, the argument being that those casinos, particularly those on the Mississippi River were actually reaping the benefits of the smoking ban in the state of Illinois whereby people who had been smoking in casinos in Illinois were just coming right across the river.  And also the argument being made then was that the state stood to lose money if casino revenues drop off because, of course, those casinos pay a good bit of taxes to the state of Iowa.

Yeager: I think the Casino Gaming Association came out with a release yesterday saying that exact same thing.  Nebraska this week passed, it was actually signed by the governor.

Henderson: Actually signed into law.

Yeager: So, now Iowa is sandwiched around this a little bit.

Henderson: You'll have to go to Missouri to smoke, I guess.

Yeager: That's what it's looking like.  This now has to go back to the House.  What is going to happen there?

Henderson: Well, what's shaking up is that the coming week for legislators in both the House and Senate will be dedicated to committee work because there is a deadline looming for bills to make it either out of a House committee or a Senate committee.  This doesn't apply, the deadline, to bills that deal with taxing and spending.  So, they'll spend most of their time in committee which means this will fester for another week and it won't be at least for two weeks until the House of Representatives brings this up on the floor and makes a decision on it.  I'm told by leaders in the House of Representatives that if that bill fails the bill which cleared the Senate, if they can't come to agreement on that, then what may indeed be the option is to have local option for smoking ordinances whereby city councils and county boards of supervisors around the state would be given the authority to enact local anti-smoking ordinances.

Yeager: Then they could curtail it to whatever their county needs are.  That would make it more of a local control issue, not a state one.

Henderson: So, therefore, if you have a casino in your county then you could decide whether in Scott County if you wanted to ban smoking in most public places except for the casinos.

Yeager: Right, that would be a huge issue in Scott, Pottawattamie and any of those that have multiple casinos.  So, this looks like it will sit.  You talked abuot the final deadline.  Are there any bills that we think need to come out of there or could come out of there that are getting attention that aren't smoking related?

Henderson: I did a story today which will air on Radio Iowa tomorrow morning about gift cards.  Everybody gets a gift card and there has been some discussion up there about a bill which would remove the idea that these expire so there would be no expiration date and there would be no fees associated with the gift card if this bill, which is percolating through the Senate, were to become law.  There is another interesting bill about identify theft.  So, there are some bills that are percolating through the system but if we asked legislative leaders what their must-do list is they don't really have a very long sheet of paper with a lot of things written on it.

Yeager: They've handled a lot of things but one thing they have done is talk about Microsoft and they did pass some incentives for them.  But it appears that maybe Iowa fell for something here.  What does it look like is going on with that story?

Henderson: Well, the story in the state of Washington is that legislators there are balking at being hit over the head with this new, soon-to-be Iowa law which grants to Microsoft these huge tax breaks if it were to open a facility in Iowa I guess the implication being that Microsoft may have gotten this deal here in hopes that they'll be going back home and then creating their home state legislators to give it to them so that they might expand in Washington state.

Yeager: So, some leveraging going on.  Cedar Falls has already taken up the issue and said we'd like to have them here, they've done an addition to what the state has done.

Henderson: Exactly. 


Tags: Iowa news smoking