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Chapter 21 The Texas Constitution Functions of a constitution Historical Development • Texas has had 5 constitutions since 1845 – 1) 1845 Adopted with statehood. – 2) 1861 Confederacy Constitution – 3) 1866 Texas reentered the Union – 4) 1869 Adopted during the Reconstruction Period. Imposed on the state by Radical Republicans in the U.S. Congress. Present Constitution • The present Texas Constitution was written in 1876. Principle 1 • They wished to rid the state of all traces of the Reconstruction-era government of the Radical Republicans. – . Principle 1 Principle 2 • The authors wished to pursue the political agenda of the Patrons of Husbandry (the Grange). • The Grange was a society intended to further the interest of farmers and the rural population. Principle 3 • The authors were responding to the state of the economy. • Texas, like the rest of the nation, was still in the midst of the Panic of 1873, and economic depression that began in the fall of 1873 and lasted well into 1878. • In many respects the depression was just as severe as the Great Depression of the 1930s Constitution of 1875 • 1) Weakened the central state government, returning more control to the public at large and local officials. • 2) The governor was stripped of most appointive powers, and most of the offices the governor had previously filled by appointment were made elective. • 3) Terms of office were shortened to keep officials “closer to the people. • 4) Ensured that the state would of have the power to regulate banks, railroads, and private corporations (in accordance with Granger fears). Texas Constitution versus U.S. Constitution • The Texas Constitution is more that 80,000 words long, four times the size of the original document (only Alabama, Georgia, and Oklahoma are longer). • The length is attributed to detailed restrictions on legislative action because of outdated and redundant verbiage. • One archaic passage says people under 21 years of age are not eligible to vote, while another passage targeted for removal disqualified paupers from voting. Disqualification of “idiots and lunatics” as voters would be changed to those who are ruled “mentally incompetent.” Comparison of Constitutions • Both establish a separation of powers with checks and balances • Legislative Function – In Texas the framers sought to limit the legislature: Legislative Branch • Texas has a bicameral system consisting of a House of Representatives. – House has 150 members elected from districts to serve two-year terms. – Senate includes 31 senators elected from districts to serve four-year terms Session Frequency • The legislature meets in regular sessions every other odd year. • The Texas Constitution empowers the governor to call special sessions of legislature, which last for a maximum of 30 days. • Annual legislative systems are near the top of the list of constitutional reforms Pros and Cons of Reform • Reformers believe that the affairs of the government are too complex to handle in biennial sessions. • Reformers would also like to increase the length of legislative sessions from the current 140 days. • Critics maintain that a legislature with more time will pass more bills and more taxes Professional Legislatures • Characteristics of Professional Legislatures – The members’ primary occupations are their legislative positions • Full-time salary • Lengthy, annual sessions • Adequate allowances Legislator Pay • 1970 the average pay was $7,240 • 1997 the average pay was $23,494 • States with the highest salaries: California ($75,600), New York, Michigan. Legislator Pay in Texas • Annual pay is $7,200 • Ranks 45th in annual legislative salaries • Texas legislators do receive a daily stipendium of $125 • per day for the first 120 days of a session. $0 for the final 20 days. • Also receive allowances of $6,500 in session to maintain offices in home district. The Executive Branch • The 1876 Constitution served to dilute the power and the authority of the governor. • Established a plural executive of elected officials The Executive Branch • In addition to the governor, the voters elect other members of the executive branch. – Lt. Governor-- – Attorney General-- – Commissioner of the General Land Office-- – Commissioner of Agriculture-- – Comptroller of Public Accounts--3 members to the Railroad Commission – 15 Members to the State Board of Education The Governor • The governor has the power to appoint more than two thousand positions. There are limitations. Removal powers also limited. • Governor is limited because many state- wide executive offices are elected. The “long ballot” is a result of the misdeeds of Governor Edmund J. Davis during the period of “Radical Reconstruction.” Policymaking Process • Financial powers-- the Texas Constitution requires the governor to submit budget proposals to the legislature. However, the Legislative Budget Board (LBB) prepares a budget as well, and its ideas generally carry more weight. • *84% of the state budget is earmarked by statute or federal law. Veto Power • Is the most effective of the three powers • The governor has the power of the veto, including the line-item veto for appropriation bills. • Takes 2/3 vote to override a veto. This is quite difficult to do, especially when two different parties control the chambers. • The threat of the veto is a powerful tool. • Legislature condenses budget to a single line Judicial Powers • The Governor can grant a pardon or reprieve. These powers are limited because they must be based on a recommendation by the Board of Pardons and Paroles. • Reprieve--the reduction of a sentence or the postponement of carrying out the sentence. Judicial Powers of Appointment • The governor has the authority to appoint an appellate or district judge to replace those who die, retire, or resign during a term. • Nearly 1/2 of the state’s judges are appointed rather than elected? • The power to appoint is the governors’ most effective tool for influencing judicial policy. Lieutenant Governor • Is the most effective of the three powers • The governor has the power of the veto, including the line-item veto for appropriation bills. • Takes 2/3 vote to override a veto. This is quite difficult to do, especially when two different parties control the chambers. • The threat of the veto is a powerful tool. • Legislature condenses budget to a single line Formal Powers of the Governor • Appointive powers • Tenure • Veto power (line-item veto) • Can call special sessions • Lacks budget making powers Attorney General • Is the state’s lawyer, representing state government and its various components in court. Gives legal advice to the state, local officials, and agencies in the form of opinions. • Secures the necessary lands for building new highways • Chases down “dead-beat” parents Judicial Branch • Texas Constitution creates two Supreme Courts – 1) Texas Supreme Court (9 members) is concerned with civil litigation. – 2) Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (9 members) deals criminal litigation Texas Court System • Each of the state’s 254 counties has a constitutional county court, which has both criminal and civil jurisdiction. • District Courts--are the basic trial courts in the the state of Texas. They hear felony cases and have jurisdiction in civil matters involving $200 or more. Civil matters make up more than two-thirds of the caseload of the district court. Texas Courts of Appeal • The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and the Texas Supreme Court comprise the state’s appellate court system. • Texas has 14 courts of appeal, each serving a specific geographic area called a Court of Appeals District. The courts of appeals hear both civil and criminal cases. Texas Courts of Appeal • The Court of Criminal Appeals is called the “court of last resort” in criminal cases. Except in rare cases where the U.S. Supreme Court gets involved. • Currently there is cases are backlogged by about two years. • At the present time, 200 capital murder cases are under appeal. Texas Judges • Texas judges are elected by the people in partisan elections. Vacancies in state court positions are filled by the governor. • The original intention was to keep the judiciary accountable to the people • On the other hand, federal judges are appointed to life terms by the president with Senate approval The Amendment Process • Founders were suspicious of radical change of the U.S. Constitution. Thus, they created impediments to slow its change • To change the words in the document must be initiated by 2/3 vote of both chambers of the Congress and approved by the legislatures of 3/4 (38) of the states • To date the U.S. Constitution has been amended 27 times. Amendment of Texas Constitution • Texas judges do not necessarily interpret the Constitution. The Texas Constitution is so long and detailed there is little room for judicial interpretation. • In Texas, an amendment is proposed in a bill and must pass by a two-thirds voted in both chambers. Ratification of the proposed amendment is by a majority vote of the people Amendments and Voters • When candidates are on the ballot, people tend to ignore the amendment • Reasons for skipping the amendment – Oversight – Intimidation – Time limits – Exhaustion – indifference • “Minimum qualifications for constables would be authorized by this amendment, beyond the existing requirements that apply to all office holders. If approved, the amendment would allow a new state law to take effect that requires constables to have a high school education; be at least 21 years of age; or be at least 18 years of age in the case of some military veterans and those • With 60 hours of college credit. A grandfather clause exempts constables elected or appointed before January 1, 1998. The qualifications are deemed too restrictive by some opponents, who claim some counties will have trouble finding eligible candidates. (Proposition 14) Proposition 13 • To bolster the fiscal soundness of a popular new program that allows prepayment of higher education expenses, this amendment extends the state’s “full faith and credit” to the Texas Tomorrow Fund. The proposal would make the fund a constitutionally protected fund. Currently, there is only an implied guarantee that tuition and fees will be paid as promised...
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