A controversy was sparked after the introduction of House Bill 2197 by Rep. Rafael Anchia (D-Dallas). The sunset bill was proposed to extend the Texas Lottery Commission (which gives $2.2 billion to Texas schools) for another twelve years, while also increasing its management. It also allowed for more flexibility in its obligation to supervise charitable bingo licensing.
The bill was introduced on April 23.
The decision to abolish the commission was led by House Republicans including Rep. Scott Sanford (R-McKinney), who argued that the lottery was a “predatory tax on poor people.”
Democrats showed support saying that it was also an inappropriate way to fund Texas education. The landslide vote came in at 81-65; the Texas Lottery commission would soon be gone.
This is not what Anchia was expecting to happen to his sunset bill.
“I don’t know if you can explain it,” Anchia said. “The House is a mercurial place. There are all kinds of surprises in the House, and this was one of them.”
In an attempt to save the bill, Anchia and Republican House Speaker Joe Straus scrambled during a lunch break to convince lawmakers to reevaluate the decision.
“We began talking to people about their options on filling a $2.2 billion hole in the public education budget,” Anchia said. “That was going to be cutting the public school budget or raising taxes. Neither of which seemed like a palatable option.”
With this financial need in mind, the House voted to reconsider later that day. The final vote was another landslide (92-53) that ended in the bill’s approval.
Rep. Mike Villarreal (D-San Antonio), a member of the House Public Education Committee, said he realized that terminating the state lottery so suddenly would be a “shock to the system.”
“It’s one thing to phase out the lottery,” he said. “It’s another thing to suddenly shut it down.”
The Texas House gave final approval to the bill on April 24. The vote was 88-54. It passed with a key amendment suggested by Mike Villarreal.
The amendment set up a joint committeeto conduct a study to assess alternative ways to replace lottery commission profits that help fund public schools.
“This allows us to evaluate how to wean ourselves off lottery revenue to fund public education,” Villarreal said.
The bill expands the lottery commission’s leadership board to five members and will sunset in 2025.