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Texas Chapter 2

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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  outdated and redundant verbiage.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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