County regulates gambling

Texpatriate has learned that the Harris County Commissioner’s Court has approved new regulations on game rooms in unincorporated portions of the City. The Houston Chronicle noted the background of these measures last night, and went into rather meticulous detail. I recommend giving the Kiah Collier piece a read.

PROTESTERS GATHER OUTSIDE OF HARRIS COUNTY COMMISSIONERS COURT!_img_1

Essentially, the new regulations require that the Game Rooms –defined as those with at least six video poker machines– register with the City of Houston and pay a fee. It also requires the rooms to not be open past 10PM, untint their windows and clearly mark the establishment as a “Game Room.” Distance requirements would also be enacted to require these places be 1500 feet away from churches, homes or schools. What the Chronicle calls “charitable bingo halls” would be fully exempted.

Click here to read more!

Texpatriate on State Income Tax

The following Editorial was written by Noah M. Horwitz and concurred to by George Bailey & Andrew Scott Romo. Olivia Arena dissented from this Editorial, but did not write a response.

The Austin Chronicle recently commented on developments related to the Special Election in House District 50. From what I understand, the three Democratic candidates are desperately trying to outflank one another to the left in the somewhat yuppie district. One of these such issues is taxation. Celia Israel, arguably the most progressive candidate in the race, has come out swinging in favor of a State Income Tax, and has berated her opponents for not doing so.

Texas, of course, is one of nine states without an income tax. The most recent public official to have the untethered temerity to support one was Bob Bullock, the Lieutenant Governor from 1991-1999. Bullock supported the tax, much to the chagrin of then-Governor Ann Richards, who opposed a tax. Richards, most Conservative Democrats and Republicans joined together to push the idea down.

The Texas Constitution (Article 8, Section 24) places some restrictions on possible State Income Taxes. Most notably, any tax must explicitly be approved by the voters. Given that referendums take place in odd-numbered years, where turnout often dips into the single digits, this means that a State Income Tax’s enactment would be extremely unlikely.

But aside from the infeasibility of a State Income Tax’s chances to pass, I would like to talk about why it is bad idea as well.

Continue reading to see Horwitz’s reasoning!

Lotto dies–whoops–I mean, lives

The Texas Tribune has the best article on this, hands down. Anyways, long story short, the Texas House voted to sunset the lottery, then, after realizing what they had just down, performed an epic about-face with amazing alacrity.

I remember the first time I (legally) purchased a lottery ticket. It was slightly after midnight on my 18th birthday, as I was coming home from dinner with friends. The gas station attendant didn’t even card me, which actually sort of disappointed me. Anyways, shortly thereafter, I started a tradition of buying a scratch-off at my local grocery store every Friday after school. I think the most memorable clerk reaction was “Is this a joke? Like, am I on candid camera?” Ouch.

But essentially, my opinion on the lotto is similar to my opinion on soda taxes or any sort of social issue, which is I have a pretty stubborn libertarian streak. People need to have personal responsibility, if they lose their money gambling, it ain’t the government’s fault, don’t blame the government lottery.

Accordingly, I was shocked and appalled at the House vote this morning to extend the life of the state lottery failing on a vote of 65-81. The Tea Party members came out in full force, and their constituents rallied to their Facebooks, congratulating them on a good “well done,” especially stopping the “evils of gambling.” Remarked one woman on Rep. Steve Toth’s page, “WE DO NOT WANT GAMBLING IN TEXAS [sic] of any kind.” I’ve always found such sentiment to run quite counter to my idea of what these people allegedly stand for, that is, small government and personal responsibility.

There is another element to this drama too, though, and that is that the State Lotto raises over $1B in revenue each year, with most of it going to education.

Then, after a few hours, the House reversed itself and voted 91-53 to save the lottery. The drama calmed down after that, so the program looks as though it will live another day.