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TribBlog: An Off-Track Bet

The Speaker doesn't have anyone studying gambling in advance of the next legislative session, and a leading Democrat says legislators ought to get together on their own to consider the issue.

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State Rep. Jim Dunnam, D-Waco, in a letter to three colleagues, suggests the House Democratic Caucus, House Republican Caucus, Legislative Study Group, and the Texas Conservative Coalition should appoint a committee to look at gambling.

Why? He says in the letter that the issue isn't getting the attention it deserves in these tight fiscal times because House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, "has committed to remaining uninvolved in the process because of his conflict of interest." Straus' family invests in horse tracks and racing, and he has said on numerous occasions that he would stay out of debates on those issues to avoid even the appearance of a conflict.

Dunnam, in his letter to Reps. Larry Taylor, R-Galveston, Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, and Wayne Christian, R-Center, says gaming is among several options for lawmakers trying to fill an expected budget shortfall next year, and says the Legislature ought to be studying it before they meet in regular session next year. "The danger of this dynamic is that while the House does no research and holds no hearings on on this issue, various industry and interest groups and their lobbyists are mobilizing now in order to pass or resist a gambling expansion next session," he wrote. "House members will be at a disadvantage if we do not do our homework in advance."

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