Gambling, drag show legislation causes conflict in Texas House
AUSTIN, Texas - The Texas House is currently considering legislation that would affect how drag shows operate in Texas, as well as if online betting and destination casinos would be allowed.
Legislation outlawing sexually-explicit drag show performances in front of children moved out of the Texas Senate in April. On Wednesday members of the House State Affairs Committee took up SB 12 and got an ear-full from those who oppose it.
"I stand in front you today in drag. There is nothing sexual about my appearance, again drag can be modified and is not inherently sexual in nature," said drag show performer Alexander Anderson.
The committee took up a substitute that does make major changes; the most notable was removing wording that specifically mentions drag shows.
"The way the bill is written it does protect businesses, it protects the ability to perform in drag, and it protected the ability to exercise your First Amendment right so long as it is not sexually-oriented That I’m OK with, and that’s where I stand," said Michael Wynn who registered as being neutral on SB 12.
Concerns remain that SB 12 could shut down some musical performances and even wrestling events, a point that prompted an exchange between committee member state Rep Jay Dean (R-Longview) and entertainment attorney Gwen Seal about the meaning of "sexually explicit".
"I guess you are saying, well what’s the definition, I think we as adults we all pretty much know what that is," said state Rep. Dean.
Seal responded by saying "But do we though?"
State Rep. Dean answerd that he did and then asked Seal, "Do you?"
Seal answered by saying "I mean I think that everyone's interpretation is different."
The hearing was suspended until later in the day because the House went into Session at 11 a.m.
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On the House floor legislation to ease restrictions on gambling got underway Wednesday afternoon. HB 1942 would allow online betting, and HB 2843 would allow destination casino resorts in Texas.
"This is really about letting your voters decide," said State Rep Charlie Geren (R-Fort Worth), who introduced the House resolution that would allow for a public vote on the gambling issue.
The success of either gambling bill remains a bad bet in the Senate but there is no doubt these issues raise questions about legislative hypocrisy. FOX 7 Austin spoke to political analyst Mark Jones from Rice University about the conflicting day under the Capitol dome.
"Well, it may be hypocrisy in the Texas House, but there's no hypocrisy in the Texas Senate. And that Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick is in favor of protecting children from drag shows, but also protecting them from online gambling," said Jones.
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The culture war bills, according to Jones, could factor into future Republican primaries but gambling probably won’t be a ballot box issue.
"Depending on what legislation eventually passes or does not pass, we are quite likely to have a special session," said Jones.
The top of the agenda for a special session would include very different issues, according to Jones.
"For a special session to actually occur, though I think we need to have one of three big issues not passed during the regular session. That would of course be the budget, but it also would be property tax relief or school choice," Jones said. "I think if any of those three do not pass between now and the end of May, the governor is certain to call a Special Session. And when he calls that special session, I would not be surprised if he includes some of the transgender or cultural war related legislation as well."