Points worth noting: Another casino push in the Legislature; outreach for homeless Fort Worth students

Posted Friday, Mar. 22, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Betting on casinos?

This year's legislative push to legalize casino gambling in Texas is dead. Or maybe it's very much alive. Or maybe it's somewhere in between.

Things weren't looking very good for the effort just a week ago. John Montford, the former state senator and Texas Tech University chancellor who was hired by Houston race track owners and casino advocates to lobby for casinos, appeared to be backing down.

Montford told the Austin American-Statesman for an article published last Saturday that his group, Let Texans Decide, was shifting its strategy. The group would no longer pin its hopes on full casinos, Montford said, but would scale back to pushing only for slot machines at horse and dog tracks.

He called it "a reasonable approach." The assumption has to be that he no longer considered it reasonable to devote his efforts toward getting approval of casinos during this session.

Fast-forward to Wednesday, and the picture seemed to change again. Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, a casino proponent in previous sessions, filed a proposed constitutional amendment calling for creation of a Texas Gaming Commission to issue licenses for casinos or slot machines at existing horse or greyhound racetracks, three more for "casino-anchored destination attraction development projects" in counties with more than 1.5 million residents, three at similar casino-anchored developments on barrier islands in the Gulf of Mexico, and casinos or slot machines operated by Indian tribes.

Proceeds from license fees and taxes on gambling and other casino revenue would go first to pay the commission's expenses, then toward school property tax relief, income for cities and counties in which the licenses are issued, higher education grants, race purses and various horse and greyhound breeder associations.

Carona had to get special permission from the Senate to file his resolution, SJR64, after the March 15 deadline. It was assigned to the Business and Commerce Committee, where he is the chairman. If it's eventually approved by two-thirds votes in the Senate and the House, it would go to voters in a Nov. 5 constitutional amendment election.

Texas casino proposals have been up and down the legislative flagpole for the past decade. It's probably best not to gamble on this one just yet.

A caring outreach

Fort Worth school district officials have identified some 1,600 students as homeless this school year. That's the population of a 4A-size high school, the second-largest classification in Texas.

The number also signifies a definite need, which some student groups and an array of community supporters are hoping to meet.

Students at Arlington Heights High School, with an assist from North Side students, have devised a way to help homeless teens at the district's middle and high schools with clothes, toiletries and other basic items.

The Care Closet, a joint project with the Fort Worth Police Department, opened this week on the Heights campus.

Eligible students who receive a voucher will be able to visit, accompanied by a teacher, counselor of school resource officer to choose clothes, accessories and toiletries that have been donated by individuals and businesses.

The Fort Worth district, with 83,000 students, 78 percent of them economically disadvantaged, is the largest public school system in Tarrant County. But some smaller districts have operated volunteer-run clothing programs for needy students for years.

Birdville's Clothes Connection started in 1991, and the PTAs Clothes Closet in Mansfield opened in 2000. The Hurst-Euless-Bedford district and several Arlington campuses also run programs.

Several of them are serving increasing numbers of students, according to a Friday report by Star-Telegram education writer Jessamy Brown.

It's evident from The Care Closet Facebook page that the endeavor is very much a grassroots thing, involving many individuals and groups raising money and volunteering to get the space ready for "customers."

On Friday, the page also had a flurry of inquiries about making donations. (https://www.facebook.com/thecareclosetFWISD)

Fort Worth Police Officer Julie Cox, the department's homeless liaison, is the contact to donate or volunteer: 817-851-2520 or Julie.cox@fortworthtexas.gov.

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