Members of the Texas Racing Commission opted to continue their unconstitutional power grab, by attacking the character of a state senator. That, in turn, earned them the wrath of Texas’ lieutenant governor. As a result, the commission may find itself defunded at the end of the month.

Under the Texas constitution, gambling can be expanded only by a vote of the public. But the never-profitable horse racing industry, which relies on government-enforced monopolies and carveouts to even survive, has convinced their pals on the oversight agency to allow slot machine-like devices at their tracks. This would be an expansion of gambling under the state constitution.

In explaining his agency’s unconstitutional actions, the chairman of the commission said it was necessary to prop up the cronies he allegedly regulates.

“This is a very desperate industry,” the Fort Worth Star Telegram quotes Tarrant County physician Robert Schmidt as saying. Schmidt serves as the dishonorable commission’s chairman. He voted to repeal the rules, but half-heartedly.

Apparently, in the eyes of Schmidt’s fellow lackeys, a “desperate industry” is entitled to run roughshod over the Texas Constitution.

Meanwhile, allies of the commissioners used the hearing to continue their attack against State Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) and her character.

Nelson has said the commission will not receive its allotment of administrative funding if it doesn’t back down from promulgating the unconstitutional rules. Effectively, Nelson, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, has said she would use the purse-string authority of the Legislative Budget Board to defund agency operations beginning Sept. 1 if they didn’t rescind their rules and follow the Constitution.

As a result, commission supporters tried unsuccessfully to launch a criminal investigation against Nelson, in a desperate bid to bully her into silence. At the meeting, Nelson’s character was reportedly attacked as the agency and industry grappled with a pending shut-down that would effectively end horse-racing.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick fought back against the rogue agency, and defended Nelson’s integrity.

“As Lt. Governor, I will not tolerate politically motivated attacks on the character and integrity of Chairwoman Nelson or any member of the Senate by members of the Racing Commission or their supporters,” Patrick said in a statement issued late this afternoon by his office. “I was shocked, as were members of the Senate, at the inappropriate tone and language of today’s hearing. The Racing Commission owes Senator Nelson, and members of the Senate, an apology.”

The commission and their “desperate” cronies are hoping Nelson (and Patrick) will back down. Probably not a good bet.

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."