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Stories Added - June 2009
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Gaming bill dies at capitol
Polk County Enterprise - June 2009
LIVINGSTON — The quest to reopen a gaming center on the Alabama-Coushatta Reservation east of Livingston halted Tuesday night just fi ve or six votes short of the 100 needed from members of the Texas House of Representatives to call for a constitutional amendment election. The question may be over for this session of the Texas Legislature but Tribal Council Chairman Carlos Bullock said the effort will continue and the gaming issue will be back before lawmakers in 2011. “Everything we were working for kind of went by the wayside,” Bullock said Wednesday. “We just couldn’t get enough votes.” “This is just another hurdle in our ongoing effort. We’ve made progress even though the bill didn’t get out of the Calendars Committee.” Adding further to the drama of the deadline to get bills out of House Committees, Rep. Edmund Kuempel, the chairman of the House Committee on Licensing and Regulation collapsed in an elevator after an apparent heart attack.
Bullock said at least 94 House members had pledged support for the bill. “The Chairman has been a strong support,” Bullock said. “He voted for us two years ago and he was working hard to get those last few votes. We always had an open door to talk to him to discuss the tribe’s issues.” Kuempel has worked well with Rep. John Otto to address concerns about authorizing tribal gaming. Otto’s district includes part of the reservation, but he voted against the bill put before the Texas House in 2007, which ended the effort in a 66-66 tie. “This really hurts. It’s like a punch in the gut, but we’re still going to be back,” Bullock said. “Getting 100 votes in the House is a daunting task. We got a lot further than the 66 votes we had last session,” Bullock said. When apprised of speculation that the tribe should reopen its entertainment center and absorb any fines as a cost of doing business, Bullock quickly dismissed the rumor.
“We’re not talking about fines if that happened, I’d go to jail … probably a lot of people would go to jail,” Bullock said. “I’m willing to sacrifice for the tribe, but not consciously do something that I know would violate the current law.” Bullock said the tribe is committed to doing things right. “We’re not putting in eightliners or anything like that,” he said. “We keep getting doors slammed in our face, but we will be back.” Bullock said several obstacles resulted from in-fighting between the varied interests that support legalized gambling — horse and dogtrack owners, destination resorts — that didn’t completely align with the two Texas tribes, the Alabama-Coushatta and the Tiguas in west Texas.
“There was all kind of things we needed to work through and we should have come together a lot sooner,” Bullock said. Economic conditions forecast for 2011 may make legalized gambling a more popular proposition, he adds. “The state’s likely to see a huge deficit in two years. With the stimulus funds it made it seem like the state wasn’t in a budget crunch, but it’s coming.”