Dispatches from the Dome

Harris County is on the list of places that would likely host a world-class resort casino and some of the country's best live racing events under a bill that ushered some big plans into the state Capitol this week.

A constitutional amendment by Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, would allow Texans to vote on letting a limited number of the casinos into the state—with Harris County being one of the big beneficiaries.

The hearing drew executives from the Sam Houston Race Park in Houston, who said the bill would revitalize the horse and dog tracks in Texas, which are now losing big purses and big players (and big money) to tracks in surrounding states.

"Texans are relegated to the minor leagues while Oklahoma, Louisiana and New Mexico are playing in the majors," said Andrea Young, president of the Sam Houston Race Park.

The surprise lemon

Houston Rep. Patricia Harless learned a lesson this week that plenty of lawmakers have learned: The surprise lemon. (As in, "That bill is a real lemon!")

Harless introduced a bill that would have shortened the period for early voting in elections from the current 12 days down to seven, which she said she thought would make it easier on volunteers, less costly and help her county run the elections.

But a raft of opposition awaited the state rep, a third-term legislator, when a House committee had a public hearing and people lined up to tell her that her bill was regressive and a model of voter suppression.

Harless said she had no idea the opposition would be so strong and told the committee she would kill her own bill for the session, suggesting instead that efficient early voting be the subject of an interim study before the 2015 session.

Suspicious gift?

A flap over a bottle of nutritional supplements at the state Capitol ended with a police investigation and one indignant group of activists.

The staff of Sen. Charles Schwertner, a Georgetown Republican and a physician, called the Texas Department of Public Safety on April 9 after a member of Texas Health Freedom Coalition dropped off the bottle, labeled "Calm" at Schwertner's office, something the group did for all members of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.

The activity was apparently suspicious enough to warrant a call to the DPS, which is in charge of security at the Capitol, and the staff later acknowledged that it was a misunderstanding.

But the coalition said the incident underscores the lack of knowledge surrounding alternative medicine and nutritional supplements—particularly by the medical community—and escalated the battle.

Now, the group has posted on its home page a form letter to send to the senator's office. It includes statements such as (and yes, in all caps) : "APOLOGIZE SENATOR SCHWERTNER!" and "YOUR STAFF'S TREATMENT OF NUTRITIONAL SUPPLEMENTS IS PERSONALLY INSULTING TO ME!!!"