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America’s will

By Weston Hicks | 13 hours ago

Special interests in Texas are losing the battle to keep control of the legislature. To compensate, they are testing Texans to see how much illegal law-making we will tolerate.

One illegal strategy is for agencies to pass law-changing rules. Government rules are only legal when they implement laws the legislature has already passed. Government rules are illegal when they change law.

Gambling expansion requires a law change, and nothing could be more established. The gambling lobby has admitted this with its relentless legislative schemes to expand gambling over decades.

Having failed, the gambling lobby is trying to turn the Texas Racing Commission into their own personal legislature, hoping Texans will take it.

Last week the Chairman of the Texas Racing Commission testified before the Senate Finance Committee. It didn’t go well for Robert Schmidt on several fronts, but one slip stuck out the most.

As background, in 2014 the Racing Commission challenged our system when they passed a law-changing rule after the Senate publicly told them not to. High handedly, the TRC made a law under the auspices of a “rule,” allowing slot machines called “historical racing terminals” at Texas racetracks.

During last week’s meeting, Sen. Larry Taylor questioned Schmidt about where the TRC stands regarding the historical gaming rule.

Schmidt failed to say what he should have; that the TRC regretted passing the rule, that they’d be wiping it off the books soon, and that they were sorry it wasn’t already done.

Schmidt merely said that he had anticipated the controversial decision would eventually be in the court system. This was an understatement, one that reveals the TRC’s continuing delusions of grandeur.

During Taylor’s questioning, Schmidt appears to say that once the rule was passed it was to be “legislated in court.” Taylor immediately asks for Schmidt to repeat what he’s said and Schmidt appeared to change his words to “educated in court,” which makes far less sense, but is less objectionable.

Senator Jane Nelson, in her remarks at last week’s hearing, said she believed the commission was being used, ostensibly by the gambling lobby. By all appearances, Nelson is exactly right.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time in recent history that a state commission has been used in such a way.

In 2014, the Texas Ethics Commission enacted a rule that would force non-profits to disclose donors when they spend more than 25% on political activity. A bill that would have accomplished the same thing was vetoed by Gov. Perry in 2013.

Conservative members of the incoming class of Senators issued a letter to the TEC warning them that the action was an overstepping of their authority. As much as the lobby wishes otherwise, agencies are not ad hoc legislatures.

During a 2014 hearing, members of the TEC were sold the illegal rule as an attack on “dark money,” a sufficiently scary scare-word onto which the lobby attached its legislative usurpation.

Like the TRC rule, the TEC rule is being challenged in court.

The TEC was encouraged by a few reckless lawmakers to circumvent the legislative process after it became apparent that free speech-limiting legislation was unlikely pass in the 2015 legislative session.

Texans lose the freedom our forefathers won with blood when we tolerate agencies, executives, and judges who make laws instead of implementing or interpreting laws made by our elected legislative representatives.

This issue is especially important right now since Obama is pushing these activities as far as he can, so far avoiding the impeachment he has roundly earned.

Texas is not America, however, it is America’s will, and tyrants have a bad score here.