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State Reps file Joint Resolution calling for constitutional amendment allowing gaming on tribal lands

AUSTIN - The leaders of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas were on hand in Austin Thursday when State Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston) and State Rep. James White (R-Woodville) filed a House Joint Resolution calling for a constitutional amendment election to allow gaming on tribal lands.

Both representatives announced the filing at a press conference outside the House chambers in the State Capitol. Senator Jose Rodriguez (D-El Paso) filed a companion resolution in the Senate Thursday.

"There are three federally recognized tribes in Texas. One is allowed to operate a casino and the other two are forbidden from doing so. I intend to right that wrong. Giving the Alabama-Coushatta and Ysleta del Sur Pueblo (also known as Tigua) tribes the authority to operate casinos will level the playing field and allow all Texas tribes to develop an economic engine that can drive a bright future for tribal families," said Thompson.

The resolution, if passed, would place a constitutional amendment on the ballot in November 2015, allowing all gaming operations on tribal land and dictating that five percent of the net proceeds go the state.

"Gaming would benefit the entire state, and especially benefit El Paso, in my Senate district," Rodriguez said. "In El Paso County, gaming by the Tigua Nation would provide jobs for the community, as well as valuable funds for health care, education, and other opportunities for the tribe.

"Statewide, full gaming would add another regional attraction; the more visitors we have, the more hotel nights, restaurant patrons and shoppers we have. The state currently is engaged in a budgeting debate, and seeking additional revenue sources. Well, here is an opportunity to do just that, an opportunity that more than two dozen states, including our neighbors in Oklahoma, already have taken," the senator added.

The Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas have seen a tremendous economic growth to its reservations and to the City of Eagle Pass since the opening of their Lucky Eagle Casino in 1996. They are proof positive that tribal gaming can be a win-win, Thompson and Rodriguez noted.

"This is not a new issue nor is it a move to expand the footprint of gaming in Texas," Thompson said. "I have supported efforts to bring gaming opportunities to Texas racetracks in the past and I will be supportive of any future efforts. But it is time to have a tribal-only proposal in Texas. Both the Alabama-Coushatta and Tigua Tribes deserve the same chance to build a strong healthy, economy for their tribes and contribute to the economic development of the counties and cities surrounding their tribal lands."

"I am proud to joint author this resolution with Rep. Thompson," White added. "We worked on it together in the past and we will continue to push for parity for Texas tribes. I am confident that the Alabama-Coushatta tribe in my district, given the chance, would run a successful business with integrity."

Under the proposal, the responsibility for regulating tribal gaming operations would not be borne by the state of Texas. The tribes would submit their gaming ordinances to the assistant secretary for Indian affairs at the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) and all gaming operations would be regulated by DOI. Approximately 240 tribes across the nation operate gaming facilities.

The Alabama-Coushatta Tribe has seen proof of that economic boost. In 2001, the Tribe opened a small gaming facility on its reservation located near Livingston. The Tribe was able to employ more than 300 people throughout Southeast Texas.

The tribal unemployment rate dropped from more than 33 percent to under 10 percent. Formerly, many employees were on some form of government assistance and had found it very difficult to find work. Employees of the gaming operation were also provided above average wages for the area, and full health benefits. Nine months after opening the Tribe was forced, by court order, to shutter its casino doors.

In addition to providing employment, the revenue generated allowed the Tribe to complete large infrastructure projects for wastewater treatment, expand health and educational facilities and add acreage to the reservation.
"The Tribe has been dependent on government subsidies for many years and for a few short months in 2001 and 2002, the Tribe was able to see what true economic independence could look like. The goal of our tribal leaders is to provide for the welfare of our tribal members, as well as generate a self-sustaining economy so that our families can continue to contribute to our community. If this proposal passes it would be a giant step toward meeting that goal," said Nita Battise chairwoman of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribal Council.

Credit cards stolen from Woodville woman’s apartment while she was sleeping

by Emily Waldrep

Earlier this month, a resident of the apartments on the 100 Block of north Nelius street reported that someone had entered her apartment during the night and removed some credit cards from her purse. Officers with the Woodville Police department opened an investigation and were able to track down where some of the credit cards were used. According to Captain Mike McCulley with the Woodville Police Department, a suspect identified as Zachary McCormick, age 22, of Woodville was brought in for questioning on April 1.

According to McCulley, during the interview with Officer Dee's regarding McCormick's involvement with the case, McCormick attempted to escape custody by threatening the officer with a chair. McCormick was tazed and a short struggled ensued. He was eventually taken into custody.

McCormick was charged with Attempting to Escape from Custody along with several counts from the original burglary investigation, which included Burglary of a Habitation and Credit/Debit Card abuse.

McCulley says there are two to three other suspects involved in the burglary case that officers are in the process of locating and interviewing at this time.

"The nature of this particular case was that the suspects went into this apartment at night when the resident was there and asleep," McCulley said. "Most burglaries happen during the daytime because people are gone at work; but, when you have someone brazen enough to go inside someone's home at night when they are there asleep is a whole new level."

Laken Read is 2015 Tyler County Dogwood Festival Queen

2015 Dogwood Queen Laken Read

Laken Read of Chester was crowned 2015 Tyler County Dogwood Festival Queen during a cermony at the Queen's Pageant Saturday, April 4. She was escorted by Keaton Whitworth. 2015 Mr. East Texas David Waxman crowned the Queen.

Drunk driver discovers how fast his Dodge Challenger can take him to jail

by Emily Waldrep

On March 25 a corporal with the Tyler County Sheriff's Department was patrolling northbound on Highway 69 near Doucette when he saw a vehicle traveling southbound at 130 miles per hour after a check with a radar. According to Chief Deputy Phil Ryan, the corporal turned around and followed the vehicle down County Road 3100 in Doucette.

After the vehicle was pulled over, the driver was identified as Dorvis Rigsby, age 36 of Woodville. Rigsby was unable to provide a driver's license or insurance. According to Ryan, the corporal noticed the strong odor of an alcoholic beverage on Rigsby's breath and asked him to step out of the vehicle. When Rigsby exited the vehicle, he was very shaky and the corporal asked him how much he had to drink, to which he replied that he had consumed "more than the average." Later in the interview, Rigsby admitted he had "much more than average" and that he was trying to get his 2013 Dodge Challenger up to its top speed of 140 miles per hour, Ryan said.

When the corporal searched the vehicle he found a Bud Ice beer in the passenger floorboard that was still cold and contained a small amount of liquid.

Texas DPS Trooper Amber arrived to assist with the DWI investigation.

Rigsby was taken to jail on charges of Driving While Intoxicated 3rd or More.

Defective headlight stop March 29 leads to drug, alcohol charges

by Emily Waldrep

On March 29, a Tyler County Sheriff Deputy conducted a traffic stop on a vehicle south of Spurger whose driver was identified as Josiah Riley, age 23, of Silsbee. According to Tyler County Sheriff Bryan Weatherford, the vehicle was originally pulled over for a defective headlamp. There was also a passenger in the vehicle who was identified as Mark Callahan, age 30, of Woodville.

The deputy asked Riley to exit the vehicle, and when he did the deputy noticed him attempt to hide an alcoholic beverage behind his seat. When asked if he had anything illegal on his person, he told the deputy he had a marijuana pipe in his pocket. The deputy also found a black bag containing a small baggie with a crystal-like substance believed to be methamphetamine.

Deputies also found an open bottle of alcohol under the passenger seat and additional methamphetamine paraphernalia in the vehicle.

The deputy took Riley into custody at that time, and was also informed that Callahan had warrants out of Hardin County and placed him into custody as well.

Both subjects were transported to the Tyler County Jail and their vehicle was towed.
Callahan was charged with Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, Driving While Intoxicated 2nd Warrant and Open Container.

Riley was charged with Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, Possession of Controlled Substance and Open container.