On second thought: Texas House opts not to kill lottery commission

Posted Tuesday, Apr. 23, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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AUSTIN -- The Texas House voted 64-82 on Tuesday to kill the Texas Lottery Commission, but quickly reconsidered its decision and opted instead to give preliminary approval to legislation keeping the gaming agency intact for more than a decade.

The initial vote nevertheless threw a scare into lottery supporters and raised immediate questions about how Texas would raise the more than $2 billion in biennial lottery-generated revenue.

"The Lottery Commission is gone," Rep. Linda Harper Brown, R-Irving, who was serving as temporary speaker, said after the early vote.

The legislation extend the commission, created in 1993, for another 12 years. It would also increase the commission from three to five members.

The bill was part of the state's "Sunset" process in which state agencies are periodically evaluated to determine their effectiveness and whether they should be continued, abolished or restructured.

Only three of Tarrant County's 11 House members initially voted to extend the commission -- Reps. Nicole Collier, D-Fort Worth, Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, and Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie. Democrat Lon Burnam joined seven Republicans in voting against the reauthorization bill.

Burnam and Rep.Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, announced their opposition on the House floor just as House members prepared to vote.

Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, author of HB2197, told House members Texas voters approved the lottery by a 2-1 vote. He also noted that thousands of Texans also play bingo, which is also regulated by the commission.

"It is the free will of these people to play these games," Anchia said. "I am not here to argue with you whether we should have gaming or not. That is not the purpose of this bill. The purpose of the bill is how we regulate the lottery and how we regulate bingo."

But the Dallas lawmaker noted that abolishing the agency would jeopardize the $1.1 billion in annual lottery-generated revenue that is used primarily to fund education. Since its creation, Anchia said, the lottery has raised a total of $21 billion for public schools as well as more than $3 billion for small businesses who have participated in lottery ticket sales, Anchia said.

But Rep. Scott Sanford, R-McKinney, said the lottery raises "false hope," calling it "an immoral and predatory tax on those who can least afford it."

"The lottery is a poor way to pay for education, and it's a poor bet," said Rep. Dwayne Bohac, R-Houston.

Dave Montgomery is the Star-Telegram's Austin Bureau chief, 512-7839-4471

Twitter @daveymontgomery

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