A roundup of legislative, state government and Capitol news items of interest for Monday, Jan. 13, 2020:
SPORTS BETTING: After a race-horse start out of the Aug. 15 gates, legal wagering on professional and collegiate sporting events may be starting to level off in Iowa. December’s betting activities both in person at state-licensed casinos and using online wagering apps were comparable to the previous month – with the retail handle of $59.26 million and the online handle of $33.45 million both down slightly from November. Overall, Iowans have wagered more than $212.2 million since Iowa legalized sports betting effective Aug. 15 and have won nearly $193 million with net receipts standing at $19.28 million through last month, according to figures released by the state Racing and Commission. State receipts from the new wagering activity top $1.3 million. The overall numbers break down to about $118.5 million wagered online using the apps now offered by 10 casinos and $93.7 million via the venues where betting activity is retail — meaning patrons have to travel to a casino where they've registered to physically place a bet. That requirement will end Jan. 1, 2021, Iowa legalized betting on professional and college athletics as well as on daily fantasy sports sites like DraftKings and FanDuel. The law does not allow in-game sports bets on in-state college teams such as the Iowa Hawkeyes and Iowa State Cyclones.
WILBURN SWORN IN: Ross Wilburn, the former mayor of Iowa City, was sworn in Monday as the representative from House 46, which includes north Ames and western Story County. Wilburn was elected in an August special election to succeed Lisa Heddens, who resigned to become a Story County supervisor.
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Wilburn was elected mayor of Iowa City in 2006. He moved to Ames in 2014 to become Iowa State University diversity officer.
He unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination for governor in 2018.
NEW CONSUMER ADVOCATE: Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller has appointed Jennifer Easler as consumer advocate for regulated utility issues. Easler replaces Mark Schuling, who retired Jan. 10 after serving as consumer advocate since January 2011. “Jennifer is a proven leader, and she will be a strong, credible voice for Iowans to assure reasonable utility rates and terms,” Miller said in a statement “For more than 20 years, she’s represented the public interest amid major changes in the energy and utilities industries.” Easler, whose appointment is subject to confirmation by the Iowa Senate, will oversee a staff of 14 people -- comprising attorneys, technical specialists and support personnel. The office investigates all aspects of electric, natural gas, water and telecommunications services regulated by the Iowa Utilities Board. It also represent consumers and the public generally before state and federal courts and agencies. Easler has been an attorney in the Office of Consumer Advocate since 1996 and served as interim director from June 2010 until January 2011.
REYNOLDS RECOMMENDS RE-ENTRY ROUNDTABLE: Gov. Kim Reynolds is inviting employers to learn about opportunities available for hiring returning citizens to the workforce. The governor is encouraging employers, recruiters, and human resource managers to attend the Employer and Reentry Roundtable at 12:30 p.m. on Jan. 29 at the Anamosa State Penitentiary. The governor’s office says officials from the Iowa Department of Corrections and Iowa Workforce Development will co-host the roundtable to highlight opportunities available with hiring returning citizens. “Our prisons shouldn’t be one stop in a circle that leads back to prison. They should connect people with opportunities to improve themselves and their skills,” said Reynolds, who noted her administration continues to host employer roundtables at Iowa correctional facilities to encourage employers to hire reentering individuals. Each event features presentations and discussions about recruiting and training practices, apprenticeship programs and incentives available to employers who hire returning citizens.