As a lame duck legislator who chose to retire, rather than be retired by his citizens, Austin lobby-lackey John Otto (R-Dayton) is ignobly leaving office by advocating for a rogue state agency.

As Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, State Rep. Otto has worked against commonsense reforms like the strict constitutional spending limits favored by 94 percent of Republican primary voters. But this summer, after announcing his hasty retreat from politics, Otto has advocated fully funding a state agency that is violating a court order and the state constitution.

Lame Duck

Lame Duck

The Texas Racing Commission voted last year to expand the footprint of gambling in the Lone Star State despite a strict constitutional requirement that gambling can only be expanded by a vote of the people. Commissioners ignored lawmakers who demanded that they rescind a policy allowing slot-machine-like games at the government-enforced racing monopoly facilities. A district judge ruled this spring that the commission didn’t have the authority to expand gambling, but they ignored that as well.

With the legislature out of session, the responsibility for executing the budget falls with the Legislative Budget Board, of which Otto is a member by virtue of his chairmanship.

Regardless of one’s views on gambling, the state’s constitution and laws should be followed – especially by state agencies. As a result, lawmakers threatened to shut down TRC funding in 90 days unless the illegal policy was rescinded.

But John Otto decided to oppose constitutional government, and advocated fully funding the rogue agency.

No doubt that was music to the ears of House Speaker Joe Straus, Otto’s patron, whose family has long been tied to the gambling industry. Straus has recused himself from gambling issues, while always making sure his committee chairmen and appointees will – like Otto – walk the line.

Even, apparently, to the point of funding a rogue state agency that ignores court rulings and the state constitution.

Otto’s last years of service in the Texas House were already marked by ideological and intellectual disrepute. Now he adds “dishonor” to his political obituary as he slinks out the door.

Michael Quinn Sullivan

A graduate of Texas A&M, former newspaper reporter, one-time Capitol Hill staffer, think tank vice president, and an Eagle Scout, Michael Quinn Sullivan and his wife have three children. He is the publisher of Texas Scorecard. Check out his podcast, “Reflections on Life and Liberty.”

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