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The H er b ir M I “Best place to cure what ails you” Explore our Oasis of Earthly Delights! extensive array of natural health and bodycare products comprehensive collection of herbs great gift ideas and much more! M.-Fri. 10-6:30 200 West Mary 444-6251 Sat on 10-5 Commission, expects some “full-blown casino bills” this session along with a move to put video lottery terminals \(video Ike gives gambling advocates another angle to preach the economic revitalization benefits of casinos. “They will always try to find some reason as to why gambling is good for the state Paynter says. Paynter points out that the Texans for Economic Development Political Action Committee, funded by gambling interests, contributed $1 million to several political campaigns in the last election cycle. They supported 22 Democrats and 6 Republicans who won their elections. Gambling supporters claim that casino gambling could generate $3 billion to $4.5 billion in state and local tax revenue. That kind of money might be too attractive for many legislators to ignore. Some have proposed using gambling revenues to shore up everything from deteriorating public schools to college scholarships. Last session Democratic Sen. Rodney Ellis and Republican Sen. John Carona filed a gambling bill that would have provided $1 billion per year for college tuition aid. What gives opponentswho are not, of course, all social conservativessome encouragement this session is the economic crisis, which has slowed expansion plans for many large casino operators. Gambling revenue in Las Vegas has already dipped by 8.5 percent, according to Time magazine. Plans to at the 12th floor. For his part, Straus, whose father founded the Retama horseracing track in San Antonio, has promised to avoid personal involvement in any gambling legislation. That doesn’t mean, however, that as speaker he can’t appoint gamblingfriendly committee chairs, or allow gambling legislation to move freely through the legislative maze. Paynter, a veteran of several battles at the Capitol over gambling, is readying herself for a tough session. “We will probably see an expansion of electronic gambling machines around bingo areas:’ she says. “I call it electronic game creep.” She’s already cranking up her rhetoric. “The truth of the matter is that the nation is in a recession and Texas is skating on a bubble Paynter says. “This is a time for thrift, not promoting gambling addiction and the crimes that come with gambling.” M.D.B. 10 IMMIGRATION Heroes and Villains Although the hysteria over illegal immigration has died down considerably since 2007, social con servatives in the Legislature are once again putting immigrant-bashing bills at the top of their agenda. On the other side, a strange-bedfellows coalition of GOPoriented business interests, Democratic-leaning Latino organizations and immigrant rights advocates that coalesced during the last legislative session is prepared to make sure any anti-immigrant measures are dead on arrival. “That coalition is in place and ready to ensure that the debate on immigration occurs on the federal level and not the state level: says Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas. In 2006, during a special session of the Legislature, Anchiaa savvy House playerforced employers that rely on immigrant labor into the fray by introducing legislation that would have penalized businesses who hired undocumented workers. “We wanted to create the most broad coalition possible, and many business interests that had a stake in the discussion had been silent to date he said. They spoke right up when their businesses were targeted. Anchia says he has no plans to file such legislation again because the coalition has stuck together and even grown. That won’t deter Rep. Leo Berman, R-Tyler, intrepid leader of the anti-immigration faction. Berman has already introduced at least half a dozen bills. Among them: a draconian measure that would strip undocumented people 14 and older of various public benefits; a stipulation that public schools inquire about students’ immigration status and enter the information into a database; a requirement that all state agencies enforce federal immigration law or risk losing funding; a constitutional amendment making English the official language of the state; a tax on all money wire andjust for the hell of ita mandate that all undocumented immigrants in the state move to “sanctuary cities.” “I understand why bills like that get filed,” says Anchia. “They’re born out of frustration with the broken federal system. But they’re not good policy. Even if they passed they would be wholly ineffective creating “a patchwork of immigration rules at the local, state and federal levels.” The anti-immigration bills are also born out of politics. Berman has positioned himself as a fearless crusader, unafraid to anger the business wing of the GOP and those Republicans sensitive to the state’s shifting demographics. “There are very few legislators who want to deal with it,” Berman told the Tyler Morning Telegraph. “They’re afraid of losing Hispanic votes.” If the Legislature doesn’t act to crack down on illegal immigrants, Berman says he will take a run at the Governor’s Mansion in 2010. F.W. 20 THE TEXAS OBSERVER JANUARY 23, 2009