State Rep. Jim Dunnam, the Chair of the House Democratic Caucus, noting that Speaker Joe Straus has maintained his pledge to stay out of processes that involve gambling-related legislation because of possible conflicts on interest, sent a letter to three of his counterparts suggesting that they take action and form a working committee now to do some study on the issue, as it will surely arise again in the next session.
In the 81st session, an overwhelming and bipartisan majority of the House voted to give this issue the serious consideration it deserves. HCR 220, by Kuempel, among other things called on “the lieutenant governor and speaker of the house of representatives to create a joint interim committee to study the gaming industry in Texas and its potential direct and indirect economic impact on specific markets and on the state as a whole…” This measure passed the House on a 98-36 vote, then died in the Senate for lack of time. The will of the House is clearly for this issue to be studied, and our constituents are owed more than us just waiting for the inevitable issue to arise in January 2011 with no prior comprehensive study of the issue.
Therefore, I am asking that you join with me in establishing a bi-partisan ad hoc committee to fully explore all aspects of any and all gaming proposals that might be before the Texas House during the upcoming 82nd Legislative Session.
You can read the letter, which he sent to House of Representatives Republican Caucus Chair Larry Taylor, Legislative Study Group Chair Garnet Coleman, and Texas Conservative Coalition President Wayne Christian and cc’ed to the rest of the House here. You know how conflicted I am about expanded gambling in Texas, but I certainly agree that it will be a big issue next spring, and as such it is the right idea to start the official discussion of it now. The fact that it won’t have any impact on the budget for this biennium doesn’t matter. I strongly suspect legislation allowing for expanded gambling will be broadly popular, and since such things tend to come from crisis times, I’ll be shocked if there isn’t something to vote on next November. So let the conversation begin and we’ll see what happens. Stace and the Trib have more.