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Ed Kuempel

Kuempel wins his father’s seat

We have a full House again.

John Kuempel, son of the late state Rep. Edmund Kuempel, won a special election Tuesday to fill his late father’s seat, state election officials said. With all precincts reporting, John Kuempel, 40, received 65 percent of the votes cast.

Voters chose between six Republicans, two Democrats and a Libertarian. The second-runner, Republican Gary Inmon, got 10 percent.

Any time you can win a multi-candidate special election with a majority of the vote, never mind 65%, it’s impressive. With the two party switchers, the GOP caucus now stands at 101 members. I wish the younger Kuempel all the luck in the world as he helps his party try to fix all of the problems they created.

More evidence that expanded gambling is doomed

From the latest TPJ Lobby Watch:

Gambling interests with stakes in the legalization of casinos or slot machines bet heavily on Democratic House candidates going into the Republican-dominated 2010 elections. Political bookies widely expected the GOP to expand its slim House majority this round, though few envisioned the extent of the sweep until late in the race.

On election night the gambling industry’s losses mirrored those of the Texas Democratic Party. Indian tribes and gambling PACs bet almost $1 million on Texas House candidates—with 80 percent going to the battered Democrats. Almost two-thirds of the money that the gambling industry bet in the House went to losers.

It’s pretty stark when you look at their table on page 3. There’s a grand total of three successful Republican legislative candidates there, one of whom is the late Rep. Ed Kuempel, and a long list of unsuccessful Democratic incumbents and challengers. I know the gambling interests claim to be optimistic, and I’m sure they’ve spent the past month getting acquainted with the boatload of new Republican legislators, but I just don’t see how the basic math is anything but less favorable to them now. Better luck in 2012, fellas.

Gambling proponents still optimistic for some reason

The conventional wisdom, to which I subscribe, says that the results on this election are bad news for proponents of expanded gambling. One reason for this is that the Republican wave means more socially conservative members. Gambling proponents are doing their best to put a smiley face on their prospects in the new Lege in spite of this.

Jack Pratt, chairman of the Texas Gaming Association and a proponent of casinos, said he is not discouraged by the recent election results.

“I have witnessed the debate over expanded gaming firsthand in at least 16 states and followed it closely in several others. It’s just a fact that many Republican legislators around the country voted for these measures and were an essential part of the majority in those state legislatures that passed expanded gaming legislation,” Pratt said. “A proposal to allow a limited number of destination resort casinos in Texas makes sense on the merits and is very compelling at a time when Texas needs jobs and new sources of nontax revenue.”

Chris Shields, who also works with the Texas Gaming Association, said an overwhelming number of Texas voters support expanded gambling measures and even more support putting the issue to the voters, based on a poll commissioned by the association. And the newly elected candidates know that, he said.

“We think the new members have a very strong connection to the voters right now,” Shields said.

Mike Lavigne, spokesman for Win for Texas, which is supported by track owners and the horse industry, said his group believes an expanded gambling bill can pass in the upcoming session, which will begin in January.

Most of the Legislature’s new blood ran on platforms of no new taxes and less government, Lavigne said. They ran on fiscally conservative values, not on socially conservative ones. To prove his point, he produced a short stack of direct mail pieces from Republican challengers that include tea party-approved tax messages and not a word about abortion or other favorite topics of the socially conservative.

And because increased gambling raises money without raising taxes, these soon-to-be-sworn-in candidates could get behind a gambling measure, Lavigne said.

Sure, if you believe that any of them want to find new revenue sources, which is at best an open question. But there’s a fundamental issue here that the gambling proponents don’t address.

Jason Isaac, the Republican who defeated Rep. Patrick Rose, D-San Marcos, represents hope for gambling proponents.

Isaac said he hasn’t decided how he’d vote on a gambling bill. He’d have to see it first. But he said he is not necessarily opposed to the idea of expanded gambling.

“My concentration is going to be on fiscal matters,” Isaac said, adding that his initial reaction is to be more open to slots at racetracks where gambling already exists rather than casinos.

Isaac said one of his concerns is that gambling could lead to bigger government — something that he and many other newly elected people staunchly oppose.

The position of Paul Workman, another newly elected Central Texas Republican, proves that gambling proponents will have to work for every vote. He said he’ll oppose a gambling measure.

Workman, who defeated Rep. Valinda Bolton, D-Austin , said he enjoys trips to Las Vegas and does not see gambling as evil. But he thinks expanded gambling of any kind in Texas would be a mistake. He might not be opposed to gambling on moral grounds, but he objects to the crime and other social costs associated with it.

“I think it brings more trouble than it solves,” he said. “I think it would add an undue burden to cities and counties.”

What goes unmentioned here is that Rose and Bolton were both gambling supporters. To be more precise, they were recipients of financial support from the gambling industry. In their place is one guy who might support a gambling resolution, and one guy who won’t. That means that they need at least one of the other new members to be a proponent and to have replaced someone who wasn’t just to break even from 2009, when they didn’t have enough votes to pass anything. What are the odds of that?

Further, I’m sure that if you looked at more of the individual cases, you’d see more of the same. Here in Harris County, for example, Rep. Ellen Cohen was a gambling supporter – in her interview with me, she stated unequivocally that she would vote for a resolution to allow expanded gambling. There’s nothing on Sarah Davis’ wafer-thin issues page that mentions gambling, but an anti-Cohen site attacked her for having “voted for legalizing gambling on Indian reservations”. In other words, at best the pro-gambling forces have broken even, and at worst they’re down another vote. I doubt it will be different in the other races the Democrats lost. And there’s still the passing of Rep. Ed Kuempel, too.

The bottom line, then, is that a number of legislators who were known to be supportive of a gambling resolution will not be there next year. In their place are a bunch of people who are almost certainly less supportive as a group than their predecessors. If there’s an example of an anti-gambling person being replaced by a gambling supporter, I’m not aware of it. The craps table offers much better odds than this.

Lineup set for HD44 special election

Here are your candidates for the special election to replace the late Rep. Edmund Kuempel of Seguin.

Tony Gergely, a Seguin business owner, is the Libertarian in the race.

The Democrats are Daniel Rodriguez Andrade of Seguin, who lists his occupation as “real estate/business owner,” and Cheryl Dees Patterson, a Seguin realtor.

The Republican list consists of Ron Avery, a Seguin architect; Chris Burchell, who’s in law enforcement in Adkins; Jim Fish, a small business owner from Cibolo; Gary Inmon, an attorney and school board member in Schertz (and the incoming president of the Texas Association of School Boards); John Kuempel, a Seguin salesman who’s running for the seat left open by his father’s death; Myrna McLeroy of Gonzales, who’s in petroleum land services; and Robin Walker, a self-employed business manager from Seguin who challenged the late representative in the March primary, gathering just 25.4 percent of the vote.

I can picture scenarios in which a Democrat makes it to the runoff, given the sheer size of this field, but not one in which he or she wins it. Without knowing anything else about the people listed above, the ones who strike me as having the best shot are Inmon, Walker, and the younger Kuempel. If you know more about this, please comment.

UPDATE: BOR tells us more about one of the Democratic candidates for this seat.

Special election to succeed Rep. Kuempel set

Not surprisingly, Gov. Perry has set it for as soon as possible.

The election for the term beginning in 2011 will be held Dec. 14, the governor’s office said.

Candidates for District 44 in Texas House of Representatives must file applications with the Secretary of State no later than 5 p.m. on Nov. 15.

The early voting will run from Nov. 29 to Dec. 10.

Even in a good Democratic year, this is a solid Republican district, so the only question will be whether someone can win this without a runoff or not. If there is a runoff, it will be in early January, so the Republicans won’t be missing a member for any significant length of time.

RIP, Rep. Edmund Kuempel

State Rep. Edmund Kuempel (R-Seguin) has passed away at the age of 67.

Kuempel, a salesman with CMC Steel Texas in Seguin, is chairman of the House Licensing and Administrative Procedures Committee, the panel through which gambling legislation typically flows.

A House member since 1983, he was formerly chairman of the House Administration Committee, the Committee on Retirement and Aging and the Committee on State Recreational Resources.

Kuempel, a graduate of Austin High School, is one of the most jovial members in the House, known for greeting women with a kiss on the cheek or hand.

Burka and the Trib have more. Kuempel collapsed during the 2009 session and was resuscitated by Rep. John Zerwas, who is an anesthesiologist. There will need to be a special election to replace him, which I presume we will hear about in a few days. The Licensing committee is the one that oversaw gambling legislation, so Kuempel’s passing may make the road for expanded gambling even rockier. But that’s a subject for another day. My sincere condolences to the Kuempel family for your loss. From all I’ve read, it’s clear that everyone who knew him liked him, and they will all miss him.

Will the racetracks and the casinos work together?

At the very end of this Trib story about more legislative hearings on gambling expansion comes this tidbit:

The Win for Texas group — which includes current racetrack owners who’d like to add slot machines and other games to their facilities — is touting that updated study on the “Economic and Tax Revenue Impact of Slot Machines at Racetracks in Texas.” The Texas Gaming Association — those are the folks who want to legalize and build resort casinos around the state — will update their economic studies and polling closer to the legislative session, according to Chris Shields, the group’s chief lobbyist. Their previous work has promised larger revenue numbers for both the state government and for the economy. And the rivalry between the various gaming factions has been the secret weapon of gambling opponents. Casinos vs. tracks has been a losing proposition in recent sessions.

“It’s different this year because of the situation with the budget,” Shields says. “What hasn’t changed, but I think will change, is the willingness of the gaming interests to work together. I don’t think there’s any way for a bill to pass without that — and everybody wants a bill to pass.”

I’ve noted the racetrack/casino rivalry a few times myself. If they really are going to work together to get a bill passed, that changes things considerably. The question is, what does it mean for them to work together? Since it isn’t in the interests of one group for there to be legislation that would only allow for the other – indeed, such legislation might close the door on them for years to come – what this suggests to me is that they’ll jointly push for a multifaceted expansion. The question then is will that be too much for some legislators, or does the budget situation make this just the right time to reach for the brass ring? I don’t know how this will play out, but it will definitely be worth watching.

By the way, you can see the study mentioned in that last paragraph here (PDF). I blogged about a similar study I got from this group last year, which was sent to me in response to a previous post that had asked questions about the economic impact of expanded gambling. This study is an update to that one, as noted in their press release. The Trib also has a from the hearing.

Poll says people prefer slots to taxes

I don’t think that’s a great revelation – I’d think many people would claim to prefer a bout of the flu to having their taxes raised – but for obvious reasons, this is a noteworthy finding.

A new poll conducted for horse track owners indicates that Texans would rather legalize slot machines at race tracks than pay higher taxes to offset a projected $18 billion revenue shortfall in the next state budget. The poll of 801 registered voters in Texas, conducted by Austin-based Perception Insight, showed the preference for slot machines across the political spectrum – Democrats, Republicans and independents.

Results of the poll mirrored earlier surveys that found Texans generally would rather see new revenue raised in ways other than through increasing taxes. The new poll, conducted from June 8-13, was paid for by Texans for Economic Development, which represents horse and dog track owners in the state. Efforts to expand gambling in Texas have picked up steam as projections for the state’s revenue shortfall next year have continued to grow.

According to the poll, 57 percent of voters favor slot machines over higher taxes when given a choice, while 22 percent would rather raise taxes.

You can see the poll memo here. There’s a lot of context missing – these were a couple of questions from a larger poll, about which we have not been told anything, and there’s no crosstab data – so don’t read too much into it. In particular, I think any time you ask the question “Would you prefer for the state to raise taxes or do X”, I think “do X” is going to win handily most of the time. Not to put too fine a point on it, but even the most optimistic estimate of potential gambling revenue for the state is far short of the structural deficit caused by the ginormous unaffordable property tax cut of 2006, let alone the actual shortfall for this biennium. In other words, this isn’t an either-or choice, even if we assumed there were no other possible options. I understand there’s only so much you can do in a poll, but that means there’s only so much you can take from it, too.

To me, the more interesting finding is that there is no apparent downside for a politician who supports expanded gambling. That’s not going to stop hardliners like Empower Texans, who have been peddling the misleading claim that gambling expansion is a Democratic issue – someone should tell that to Rep. Ed Kuempel, as he was the lead author of the joint resolution and its enabling legislation to expand gambling last session – from trying to scare Republicans about it. It wouldn’t be any fun if it weren’t for stuff like that. Whether this changes anyone’s position or not, I couldn’t say, but it’s not likely to make anyone shy away from supporting more gambling.

Finally, note that the questions only asked about slots at horse racing tracks, not about casinos. As we know, those two interests are competitive and not cooperative, so there’s no guarantee that even if we do see some kind of gambling expansion move forward that it will take this specific form. Maybe casinos would be less popular than slots, I don’t know. Just something to keep in mind.

The pitch from the gambling industry

We know that the gambling industry, which never sleeps, has been busy preparing for the next legislative session. The Trib gives us an overview of their pitch, about which I’m sure you’ll be hearing plenty more in the coming months. Most of this is familiar territory, so let me just zoom in on two points. One has to do with the numbers:

Promoters of gambling have been trying to get everything from slot machines to casinos legalized in Texas for years, but they were brushed aside last year after the stimulus money relieved the budgeteers of many hard choices. Now, the gambling side says, the continuing recession improves their odds, and they’ve managed, for now, to keep all of their own constituencies from squabbling.

“They’re all getting along and singing from the same hymnal,” says Mike Lavigne, who’s working for Texans for Economic Development, a group of track owners, horsemen and others who want the state to okay expanding gambling at tracks. They’ve got a web site — winfortexas.com — and have lobbyists and others strategizing in advance of the 2011 legislative session.

That group wants lawmakers to allow video lottery terminals, or VLTs, at the state’s horse and dog tracks and on reservations of the state’s three Indian tribes: the Tiguas, the Kickapoos, and the Alabama Coushattas. They say those “racinos,” (a combination race track and casino, would bring $1 billion into state coffers each year (twice that for a two-year state budget) once they’re up and running and would be an economic boon to their communities and to the horse business in Texas.

“Eventually, they’ll be facing taxes, or fees, or something else,” Lavigne says. “This is the lowest-hanging fruit. If you need $2 billion fast, call us.”

[…]

Rob Kohler, who’s been lobbying against legalized gambling for years, doesn’t buy the budgetary justifications. “The difference between now and when we did horses and the lottery is that, then, we didn’t have a lot of data,” he says. “Now we have the data. This isn’t a viable revenue mechanism.” Horse and dog tracks never produced any more than a trickle of revenue for the state in spite of flagrantly optimistic economic forecasts at the time lawmakers were asked to legalize it (at the start in 1986, proponents forecast the state would net $110 million annually; the revenues have never been more than a small fraction of that amount, and the costs of regulation have negated any fiscal benefit to the state treasury). The lottery has produced more or less as predicted, but didn’t become the public school funding panacea sold to voters, he says. “The perception is that they were sold a bill of goods,” he says.

Slot machines, Kohler says, would bring the dangers of expanded gambling without much benefit. Racinos, he says, would add little to the state’s annual budget, which is approaching the $200 billion mark. “Take 200 pennies. Throw them in a bag. Throw in one more penny. That’s what you’re getting,” he says.

Kohler’s point about the relative size of gambling revenue to the overall budget is correct, but not particularly responsive. What matters now is the size of the deficit and how it can be shrunk, and even a small new revenue source still contributes to that. Note that one reason we’re having the conversation about gambling as a source of revenue is because all of the more sensible sources are for a variety of reasons politically untenable, and even in Texas most people recognize that cuts only get you so far. If we could have an adult conversation about the state’s tax structure, there would be less attention being paid to casinos and video lottery terminals.

Of course, as we’ve discussed before, even if the gambling industry got everything it wanted in the next session, the revenues they promise would not materialize right away. That’s the second point, the timeline:

The racinos wouldn’t produce money immediately. [State Rep. Ed] Kuempel and others say the state will need the money in subsequent budgets and argue that the earlier the gaming is allowed, the quicker the money will come in. One proposal would let the state sell licenses for the VLTs — that would bring in money up front — but the track operators say they can’t afford the licenses until the gaming parlors start generating cash. And they say the Legislature isn’t ready to approve full-blown resort casinos, either. “We’re not talking about opening up new casinos all over the state,” Lavigne says. “These things don’t happen overnight.”

However we answer the question about gambling this session, the questions about the budget shortfall will have to be answered separately. Expanded gambling will not do anything to affect this biennium.

Kuempel out of coma

Good news.

Rep. Edmund Kuempel, R-Seguin, is now out of a medically induced coma and his body temperature has been raised to normal, said his friend Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth.

“I saw him last night, and he looked a whole lot better than he did when he left here,” Geren said.

Kuempel collapsed late Tuesday and was discovered by a House sergeant at arms. He was revived by a legislator who is a doctor and by Texas Department of Public Safety officers.

On Friday, Kuempel moved his foot, attempted to respond to his son’s and daughter’s voices, and opened his eyes, Geren told House members.

“It was exciting. The family, as you can imagine, is very, very excited,” he said.

More here. Rep. Kuempel still has a long road ahead of him, but his progress so far is encouraging. My continued best wishes to him and his family for a full and fast recovery.

Rep. Kuempel collapses at Capitol

Scary.

The Texas House adjourned abruptly tonight after state Rep. Edmund Kuempel, R-Seguin, was found collapsed in a Capitol elevator.

A House sergeant-at-arms, Jennifer Irby, said she had found Kuempel, 66, in an elevator about 10:30 p.m. Rep. John Zerwas, R-Fulshear, who is a doctor, attended to Kuempel.

As an ambulance waited outside the Capitol, lawmakers including House Speaker Joe Straus crowded around elevators just outside the Rotunda. Shortly before 11 p.m., a stretcher emerged from the elevator area, and Kuempel was taken to University Medical Center at Brackenridge, several representatives said. Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, then led lawmakers in a prayer.

Officials at Brackenridge Hospital did not release information about his condition early Wednesday morning.

Zerwas said that when he reached Kuempel, he was unresponsive, was not breathing and had no pulse. Zerwas said he oversaw CPR until EMS arrived. He said a defibrillator was used to shock Kuempel about eight times.

By the time Kuempel left for the hospital, he had a heart rhythm and a pulse, and though he was not breathing entirely on his own, he had “some spontaneous breathing,” Zerwas said. Zerwas said it could have been a heart attack but could not say for sure.

“I would be very cautiously optimistic,” said Zerwas, an anesthesiologist.

My very best wishes to Rep. Kuempel for a full and fast recovery.

UPDATE: Here’s an update on Rep. Kuempel’s condition.

Tuesday Lege roundup

Some more notes about what has been happening in the Lege…

– It looks like the program to test high school athletes for steroids will be scaled back.

Texas lawmakers have reached a deal to slash steroid testing of public high school athletes to less than half of the current program, but still leave it big enough to test thousands of athletes over the next two years.

The deal was struck by House and Senate members negotiating the 2010-2011 budget, lawmakers said Tuesday.

The current $6 million program was designed to test up to 50,000 students by the end of the current school year. The tentative deal for the new program would slash funding to $2 million over the next two years.

Good! Zeroing it out completely would have been better, but I can live with this. Maybe next time it’ll go away.

– There’s still some hope for the omnibus gambling resolution, but Rep. Ed Kuempel has a backup plan ready anyway.

UPDATE: Brandi Grissom tweets that “the fat lady has sung” for the gambling bill.

– If you’re under 21, getting a driver’s license for the first time just got harder.

– A tax on smokeless tobacco, which would fund a medical school repayment fund for doctors who agree to move to rural areas, passed the House.

– And finally, Rep. Senfronia Thompson’s HB982, the alternate strip club tax, has passed the Senate.

The Texas Senate voted on Tuesday to repeal a $5-per-person admission fee on strip clubs that has been ruled unconstitutional and agreed to replace it with a new tax on sexually oriented business.

The bill now goes to Gov. Rick Perry for his consideration even as House members were poised to debate a competing bill favored by sexual assault victim advocates.

Passed in 2007, the strip club admission fee has been ruled unconstitutional by a judge and is currently under appeal. Money collected under that fee was sent to a fund to help sex assault victims and a pool for uninsured Texans.

The new tax proposed by Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, would apply to adult movie theaters, adult video stores, adult bookstores and other sexually oriented businesses that charge admission fees. It would total 10 percent of gross admissions receipts.

According to a legislative analysis, the new plan would send 25 percent of the new fee to a state school fund and the rest to a sexual assault victims fund.

But some advocates for victims say the new bill is a ruse put forth by strip club owners, who would not be required to charge admission to their clubs, and would sharply reduce the money collected to help assault victims.

The Texas Association Against Sexual Assault instead supports a separate House bill by Rep. Ellen Cohen, D-Houston, who pushed the original $5 fee. Cohen’s bill would reduce the club entry fee to $3 and dedicate all the money to the sexual assault fund.

Rep. Cohen’s HB2070 is still pending in the House. More here.

Omnibus gambling bill gets committee approval

Brandi Grissom reports.

State Rep. Norma Chavez, D-El Paso, said today the House Licensing and Administrative Procedures Committee approved the omnibus gambling measure that contains language that would allow the Tigua tribe in El Paso to resume gambling at Speaking Rock.

The measure, HJR137, would amend the Texas Constitution to allow voters to determine whether gambling should be allowed in their region.

I assume what this means is that the language for the omnibus bill has been approved, and will next go to the committee for a vote to be sent to the House floor. I say that because the Texas Legislature Online shows no recent activity for HJR137, and because the listed text of the bill is different from what Grissom provides (Word doc). A draft version of this bill had been released last week, so this is progress for it. Rep. Ed Kuempel, the chair of the committee, believes there is enough support in the House for this to pass. At this point, as with everything else, it’s a matter of time.

UPDATE: And now the TLO page has been updated to reflect the fact that this bill was in fact approved by the committee, on a 6-0 vote with three members absent. So it just needs House approval, then a vote in the Senate, along with the adoption of the enabling legislation.

Is there still hope for the microbreweries?

I said previously that I thought the prospects for HB2094, the bill to allow microbreweries to sell some of their product on site, were dim. I don’t want to give any false hope, but it’s possible I was too pessimistic.

With just a month remaining before lawmakers adjourn, the bill remains bottled up in the same House committee where a similar measure died in 2007. The chairman of that committee on Thursday gave the bill a “50-50” chance of making it out in time to get scheduled for a vote by the end of the session.

“I will look at it and see what the will of the committee is,” said state Rep. Edmund Kuempel, R-Seguin, who chairs the nine-member Licensing & Administrative Procedures Committee. He explained that if four other members agree to support the bill, he would vote to move it along as well.

“I would not hold it in committee,” Kuempel said.

However, no vote on the bill was scheduled by late Thursday, and time is running short. The bill would have to be out and cleared by the Calendars Committee by May 14 if it is to have any chance before the session ends June 1.

State Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, who sponsored the legislation in 2007 and again this year, said she has the necessary four votes and late in the day got a commitment from Kuempel. She said he was scheduling the vote.

She said the bill appears to have encountered stiff opposition “behind the scenes.”

Earlier Thursday, Licensing committee member Charles Geren, R-Fort Worth, recalled there was opposition when the bill was introduced for discussion, but he said he did not remember where it came from. He said he would “probably vote for” Farrar’s bill but referred questions about its status to Kuempel.

If HB2094 can get passed out of committee, then it has a chance, even this late in the session. It’ll still be a close call in the Senate, but at least their calendar is not quite as jammed. So take a moment and contact a committee member about HB2094. Beer, TX has more.

The Mayorals and gambling

What the Mayoral hopefuls think about expanded gambling in Texas, in particular for the Houston area, is an interesting question, but I’m not sure it’s a relevant one.

Three candidates for Houston mayor bobbed and weaved today as they were asked about government issues during a video-taping of this weekend’s Red, White & Blue program on KUHT Channel 8.

Republican Gary Polland, who co-hosts with Democrat David Jones, mentioned that the legislature is considering a bill allowing local government to conduct elections on whether to have legalized gambling in their areas, beyond what the state has now. If the bill passes, should Houston, which once was home to a football team called the Gamblers, have more gambling, especially now that cities are scrambling for new revenue sources?

Councilman Peter Brown: “I think we ought to look at term limits (instead).”

City Controller Annise Parker: “I don’t know about gambling necessarily in Houston . . . I have long thought since Ike that it would be of great benefit to Galveston to be the first city in Texas to have casino gambling.”

(Of course, Galveston did have casino gambling, legal or not, through the 1950s).

Lawyer Gene Locke: “To me the operative word is that we should have a local referendum . . . I’m a big proponent of letting the people decide.”

Maybe I’ve missed something, but the only election I’m sure will accompany an expansion of gambling bill would be a state constitutional amendment referendum. I’ve looked through my archives and don’t recall seeing anything about local option elections. There are plenty of gambling-related bills out there, so it’s entirely possible that one or more of them have such provisions, I just can’t say I’ve seen them. I think if anything gets through, it’s likely to be one big omnibus bill that the casino and racetrack interests can both agree on. Such a bill is still in flux and may never reach the House floor, but that’s what’s out there. I’m wondering if this is what Polland had in mind, or if he was referring to a different bill.

In any event, this post was worth linking to for this bit of poignancy:

Candidate Roy Morales was not invited to the taping because, the hosts said, the studio can only accommodate three guests at a time.

Poor Roy. Poor, poor Roy.

Seventeen casinos?

Wow.

The chairman of the House committee that oversees gambling said Friday he has strong support for legislation that would open the door for 17 casinos, slot machines at racetracks, and Indian gaming in Texas.

Rep. Edmund Kuempel, R-Seguin, said the omnibus gaming bill, which would let voters decide whether to allow gambling in Texas, probably won’t be firmed up in his committee until next week. But he said the measure lawmakers are negotiating merges the interests of oft-competing resort casino developers and racetrack operators – as well as Indian reservations that had their casinos shuttered in 2002.

Maybe the Tiguas will get what they wanted after all.

Kuempel stressed that the details of the bill could change in the next week. But he said right now, lawmakers on the Licensing and Administrative Procedures Committee have a framework that would allow up to 17 resort casinos: 3 on Indian reservations; 2 on the South Texas barrier islands; 1 in the Port Arthur area; 3 at Class 1 racetracks; 2 at Class 2 racetracks; and 6 others spread out across the rest of the state.

The measure would also allow slot machines at racetracks and other forms of gaming on Indian reservations.

That’s a hell of a lot of casinos, that’s all I know. Take a look again at the economic projections made by the racetracks and see if you think there’s room here for that large an expansion of gambling. I can’t wait to see what numbers get thrown around next week.

In the meantime, it would seem that the competing interests may have found a way to put aside their differences and get something on the table, as it were.

Outside a Capitol hearing on casinos and other gambling not allowed in Texas, an advocate for legalizing slot machines at horse and dog tracks called a pro-casino lobbyist a “pathological liar.”

Separately, the critiqued lobbyist said anyone suggesting that he scrawled on a handout and misrepresented Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst’s position on casinos was lying.

The testy moments last week served as reminders that the fight over bolstering legal gambling in Texas beyond betting on dogs and horses remains a legislative spectacle, entwining lawmakers, lobbyists, developers, Indian tribes, casino interests, tracks, and horse and dog owners, some of whom might feel like perennial players in a gamblers’ version of the movie “Groundhog Day.”

The renewed bickering this session could again bog down efforts to expand gambling.

[…]

Rep. Edmund Kuempel, chairman of the House Committee on Licensing & Administrative Procedures, has said a gambling measure should be achievable this year.

Kuempel, who presided over hours of public testimony last week, huddled privately Monday with House sponsors of various proposals in hopes of reaching a common-ground package. “We’ve got to explore every possibility,” he said.

[…]

At the start of the session, Kuempel provided space in his office for casino and track interests to hammer out an agreement potentially bringing legislators together. Noting the state’s financial straits, Kuempel exhorted: “If you can’t get it together this time, all of you should be shot.”

Hey, as Adam likes to say on Mythbusters, “Failure is always an option”. And in this case, the entertainment value is nearly as high.

Musical chairs

When the State House reconvenes next Monday, I presume one of the first orders of business for new Speaker Joe Straus will be to name committee chairs. This sort of thing may seem like the most boring of inside-baseball stuff, but it’s what makes the Lege go ’round. Good committee chairs not only mean good legislation coming to the floor, it more importantly means bad legislation will get quietly strangled without that ever happening. So to that end, I’m liking Burka’s list of guesses about chairs. Two in particular stand out to me:

Elections: Joaquin Castro or Trey Martinez-Fischer. This is one of the committees that the Democrats really want to control. Anchia, a veteran of the Voter I.D. battle with penalty-box-bound Leo Berman, is the obvious choice, but his skills could be put to better use elsewhere. Because of Dallas’s concerns with coal plants, I have him as a possibility for Environmental Reg; other contenders there could be Menendez and Strama. Castro or Martinez-Fischer could provide a decent burial for the Voter I.D. bill.

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Environmental Regulation: Dennis Bonnen has been a controversial chairman; two years ago he bottled up a host of clear air bills, promising a comprehensive bill in 2009. I doubt that he will get that opportunity. I would not be surprised to see Kuempel, a member of the committee, move up to chairman, although this change in leadership may not produce a change in philosophy. If Kuempel doesn’t want it, Straus, who is pretty green himself (no pun about inexperience intended), could turn to a green Democrat such as Anchia or Menendez or Strama. As is the case with Elections, Environmental Reg is one of the committees the D’s would dearly love to control.

Something to look forward to next week. As with the Presidency, the out-with-the-old is as consequential as the in-with-the-new. Obviously, this is just one person’s guess, and none of it could be right, though I think Burka made some decent guesses and for a change his commenters haven’t jumped all over him. Some of my colleagues think the Democrats got suckered on voter ID. I tend to disagree with that, but I’ve been saying all along we’ll know for sure once we see the list of chairs. Here’s hoping.