UPDATE: In one of the biggest, “oops, never mind” moments of the session, the House moved to reconsider the vote for HB 2197. The vote to reconsider takes a two-thirds majority which passed 110-37, and the bill itself eventually passed with a 92-53 vote onto 3rd reading.
In a surprise 82-64 vote against HB 2197, the sunset bill allowing the continuation of the Texas Lottery Commission, the House single handedly removed more than $2 billion dollars from the state budget. With the passage of SB 1 earlier this month the House already approved spending measures from revenue from the Texas Lottery, including money for education and veterans and indigent health care, just to list a few.
The bill met with opposition led by freshman Representative Scott Sanford, who is also the minister at Cottonwood Creek Baptist Church. He spoke about the moral ills of the lottery, which is a common argument that keeps casinos out of Texas, but not one generally used for eliminating the billion dollar industry that is the Texas Lottery Commission.
When the bill passed, several younger tea party members cheered with victory, probably unaware that they tied the hands of budget writers, charities all over Texas, and public schools in their districts, to say nothing of the countless jobs within the Texas Lottery Commission.
Representative Anchia, the author of the bill told the Texas Tribune that charities can no longer have bingo as fundraisers.
“VFW Bingo's dead now,” Anchia said. “They're going to have to go back to their constituents and explain why bingo is illegal.”
The Texas Lottery Commission's projected proceeds are $2,075,000,000, to the Foundation School Program for the 2014-2015 fiscal years, according to the Comptroller's Revenue Estimates.
Rep. Sylvester Turner, one of the conference committee members for the House Budget expressed his concerns for the vote that had just happened on the back mic, noting that he's going to have to confer with the Senate with $2.2 billion dollars less than expected without the passage of this bill. When asked what happened, all the response he got behind the speaker's dais was, “The Lottery Commission is gone.”
The House is now currently in a whirlwind trying to undo the damage done by voting down this sunset bill. In the past, when sunset bills dealing with large agencies like this haven't passed, a special session is usually imminent.
When the Republican members were speaking against this bill, one of the members on the back mic quoted a notorious author, saying that the lottery was a tax on poor people, and for people who can't “do math.” Yet with the Tea Party Republicans cheering to eliminate the lottery commission, but also passing a budget that has the $2.2 billion dollars already spent, it seems the people who can't “do math” are not the people who play the lottery, but the tea party members themselves. Too bad the members don't tax themselves, jackpot!