For several years, Texas has been a model of limited government—at least compared to other states. A new trend is taking us in a disturbing direction: unelected, unaccountable commissions usurping power, undermining constitutional authority and growing government. It’s not just wrong; it’s criminal.

From the Racing and the Ethics commissions to the State Board of Dental Examiners, state agencies are exceeding their statutory authority and mocking the Constitution of Texas.

For example, the entire Republican Caucus of the Texas Senate recently sent a letter telling the Racing Commission they did not have the authority to expand the footprint of gambling. That power rests with the legislature and the people.

Their response? To implement a new cartel-gambling scheme giving their cronies in the racetrack oligopoly authorization to install slot machines at their languishing facilities. (Despite the hype, horse racing has been neither popular nor profitable in Texas, hence the “need” for track owners to find new lures to bring in money.)

Meanwhile, the Ethics Commission and Dental Examiners are pushing forward rules giving themselves powers specifically forbidden to them.

A gubernatorial veto last year denied the TEC authority to force non-profits to disclose the names of their donors. Yet the commission is moving forward with a Lois Lerner-style rule letting the agency pick apart any non-profit they think might offend certain incumbent crony politicians.

Meanwhile, the dental board is implementing a rule forbidding dentists from outsourcing “back office” work to service providers. This arrangement reduces costs while freeing dentists to practice dentistry. Old-guard dental practices refuse to compete for consumers with more efficient business models. They wanted the legislature to outright ban so-called “dental service organizations,” but were rebuffed. Since they won’t win in the free market and the legislature wouldn’t play, old-guard dentists are using a state agency to stifle competition.

Such actions aren’t happening in a vacuum.

Austin’s crony crowd recognizes they have a narrow opportunity to undermine constitutional limitations on government power. With Gov. Rick Perry heading out and unable to hold them accountable, these appointees are running roughshod over the rule of law. Likewise, the crony-lobby fears the incoming lieutenant governor (Dan Patrick) and a distinctly free-market-oriented Senate won’t be interested in protectionist, anti-liberty gamesmanship. They are striking now, hoping a lethargic Texas House – under the leadership of anti-conservative Joe Straus – will keep the floodgates of cronyism wide open by blocking reformers.

Yet there are other options; conservatives are fighting back.

State Rep. Matt Krause of Tarrant County has filed a lawsuit against the individual commissioners of the Texas Racing Commission for their usurpation of his legislative power. This conservative champion is taking the fight to the usurpers.

Lawmakers might also consider impeachment. Clearly, the commissioners of the TEC, TRC and Dental Board are exceeding their constitutional and statutory authorities. They have gone from managing agencies to creating previously unimagined powers for themselves.

Consider this irony: Straus and his team are still threatening a University of Texas regent with impeachment for doing his job (asking questions about unethical behavior in the bureaucracy), yet are doing nothing to stop (their allied) agency commissioners undermining the rule of law!

Texans must stand against all tyranny, but especially the tyranny of unelected bureaucracies.

Thinking they exist above the law, several state agencies are becoming criminal enterprises. This is not the governing structure Texans want. If allowed to continue, the Texas model will no longer be one of economic vitality, but corruption and decay. We must demand quick action lest we find Texas occupying a chapter in the dismal history of liberal cronyism, and Texans becoming the latest victims of bureaucracies run amok.

Texas’ Criminal Commissions…?

Texas Ethics CommissionTexas Racing CommissionBoard of Dental Examiners
Jim Clancy, Chair
Robert Schmidt, Chair
of Aledo
Rodolfo "Rudy" G. Ramos Jr.
of Houston
Paul W. Hobby, Vice Chair
of Houston
Ronald F. Ederer, Vice-Chair
of Corpus Christi
Steven Austin
of Amarillo
Wilhelmina Delco
of Austin
Gloria Hicks
of Corpus Christi
Tamela L. Gough
of McKinney
Tom Harrison
of Farmers Branch
Vicki Smith Weinberg
of Colleyville
James W. Chancellor
of Garden Ridge
Hugh C. Aiken
of Dallas
Michael F. Martin
of San Antonio
Whitney Hyde
of Midland
Bob Long
of Bastrop
John T. Steen III
of Houston
Renee Cornett
of Austin
Tom Ramsay
of Mount Vernon
Gary P. Aber
of Simonton
D. Bradley Dean
of Frisco
Chase Untermeyer
of Houston
Christie Leedy
of Abilene
Evangelia 'Lia' Mote
of Cedar Park
Lewis White
of Humble
Emily A. Christy
of San Antonio
Kirby Bunel Jr.
of Texarkana
Tim O'Hare
of Farmers Branch
Lois Palermo
of League City
Michael Quinn Sullivan

Michael Quinn Sullivan is the publisher of Texas Scorecard. He is a native Texan, a graduate of Texas A&M, and an Eagle Scout. Previously, he has worked as a newspaper reporter, magazine contributor, Capitol Hill staffer, and think tank vice president. Michael and his wife have three adult children, a son-in-law, and a dog. Michael is the author of three books, including "Reflections on Life and Liberty."