Republicans roll the dice on gambling
To the rescue comes Rep. Kino Flores, D-Palmview, whose most recently revised gaming legislation HB 9 appears to be the proposal of choice, borne out by the bill's low number and last week's addition of four co-authors, including Republican Reps. Terry Keel of Austin and Jim Pitts of Waxahachie, who also chairs the House Appropriations Committee. Both Pitts and Flores have filed proposed constitutional amendments that would put the gambling question to voters in November.
With everything falling into place on the gaming front (Flores' bill appeases both slot machine proponents and casino interests), the Texas Republican Party is fit to be tied. It had hoped to paint this as an immoral Democratic issue, but there's no getting around the fact that Republicans are betting on gambling to pay the bills. The party line remains the same, however. "We've been very clear that there is no wiggle room in the party platform on gambling," says state GOP spokeswoman Sherry Sylvester. "Even for funding education, we just think it's a bad idea." Moreover, she says, the party opposes turning gambling into a ballot issue. "The people of Texas quite deliberately put a Republican majority [in the Legislature] so they can make the decisions. That's what the people of Texas elected them to do."
Judging by the House playbook, it looks like they've decided to let voters decide. (Maybe the GOP should consider writing "political courage" into its platform.) Meanwhile, the state GOP will team up with other groups for an anti-gambling rally next Thursday, March 31, at 11am at the Capitol.