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Chapter 3

Chapter 3. The Texas Constitution. Role of a State Constitution. State constitutions All states have a constitution. Similar purpose to federal Establish institutions Specify broad rules and laws governing the state. Role of a State Constitution.

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Chapter 3

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  1. Chapter 3 The Texas Constitution

  2. Role of a State Constitution • State constitutions • All states have a constitution. • Similar purpose to federal • Establish institutions • Specify broad rules and laws governing the state

  3. Role of a State Constitution • Fundamental questions about constitutions: • What belongs in a constitution, and what should merely be a law? • Must a constitution always be followed? • What measures should be taken to ensure it remains a living document? • Applicable to contemporary society even though very dated, as with the U.S. Constitution

  4. Role of a State Constitution • State constitutions • Legitimate state institutions: explain the sources of their authority • Delegate power: explain what institutions are allowed to perform certain functions • Prevent the concentration of power • Limit power by defining rights of citizens

  5. Role of a State Constitution • Texas Constitution is heavily influenced by federal one. • Political power is derived from the people. • Power is divided among three branches. • System of checks and balances limits power • Individual rights are declared to limit power. • Federalism

  6. Role of a State Constitution • Federalism • Supremacy clause: the U.S. Constitution and federal laws are the supreme law of the land. • Necessary and proper clause: the federal government has all the authority it needs to carry out its powers.

  7. Texas Constitution Today • Notoriously poor document • Outdated • Over amended • (474 amendments; U.S., 26) • Micromanages • Opposite of “broadly constructed laws” • Easy to amend, difficult to overhaul • Tack on laws easily • Scrap and start new very hard: legislative time crunch

  8. Prior Texas Constitutions • Before examining the current constitution, consider the prior governing documents. • Six different constitutions have governed the state at different points in state history. • Each reflects different national priorities, issues of the time, and values of the writers.

  9. Constitution of Coahuilay Tejas, 1827 • After Mexico was granted independence from Spain in 1821, Texas departed with it. • In 1827, Texas was declared a state of Mexico. • Combined with Coahuila region, hence state became “Coahuila y Tejas” • The original Mexican Constitution was very similar in structure to America’s. • Notable difference, Catholicism was the official religion in the state.

  10. Constitution of Coahuilay Tejas, 1827 • The state was divided into three legislative districts. • The territory of what is now Texas formed the district of Bexar. • Citizens were guaranteed liberty, security, property, and equality. • Curtailed slavery

  11. Constitution of the Republic of Texas,1836 • Texas’s break with Mexico was, in part, a constitutional crisis. • Texas resident demands • Make it easier for Americans to immigrate to the state (Mexico) • Teach both Spanish and English • Allow Texas to be its own state, independent of Coahuila

  12. Constitution of the Republic of Texas,1836 • Texas Declaration of Independence (1836) • Adopted at Washington-on-the-Brazos • Drew from John Locke, who argued the purpose of government is to protect rights • Reflects southern political culture • 39 of the 59 Republic of Texas Constitution framers were from southern slave states • Only 10 of 59 lived in Mexico more than six years.

  13. Constitution of the Republic of Texas,1836 • Three separate branches • Bicameral legislature • Four-tier court system • Justice, county, district, state supreme court • Ministers could not hold office. • Slavery was allowed. • Communal property and debtor relief

  14. Constitution of the Republic of Texas,1836 • Allowed new white immigrants to bring slaves already in servitude • Banned importing slaves from Africa • Texas slave population skyrockets under this constitution. • 1836: 5,000 slaves (~12% statewide population) • 1850: 58,161 slaves (25% statewide population) • 1860: 182,566 slaves (30% of total population)

  15. Texas State Constitution of 1845 • Texas slave state, nine years before it joins the Union • Imbalance of nonslave and slave states at time • Gave all defense-related property to America • Kept vast public lands and state’s debt • Three branches with checks and balances • Governor was term-limited • Judges appointed for six-year terms • State could divide itself into five new states

  16. Confederate Constitution of 1861 • Banned freeing slaves • Few changes to state constitution otherwise • Texas Constitution kept ban on importing slaves from Africa • Purpose of Confederate Constitution was to leave the Union and take a side • Not create new governing institutions; hence few changes to actual government

  17. Constitution of 1866 • Needed to re-join Union after Civil War • Ratified by slim majority • Slaves freed • Allows blacks to own property and to sue • Blacks banned from voting or holding office • Increased salaries for officeholders • Congressional apportionment would be based only on number of white male citizens

  18. Reconstruction Constitution of 1869 • Confederate states required new state constitutions to comply with federal laws. • Congressional Reconstruction Act 1867 • Approved by military orders, not a vote • Black men extended right to vote and full political equality • Compliance with Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments • Governor given many unchecked powers

  19. Constitution of 1876 • Needed due to Governor Davis corruption and power imbalance allowed in 1869 Constitution • Four goals in this constitution: • Strong popular control of government (voters) • Powers were to be limited • Restrain spending • Promote agriculture interests

  20. Constitution of 1876 • Limited government in many ways in reaction to experience with Governor Davis • Judges were elected. • Governor powers diffused (plural executive) • Part-time legislature • Taxes and debt were limited. • Schooling not required, was segregated • Railroads and banks heavily regulated

  21. The Texas Constitution of Today • Constitution of 1876 remains in place today • Long and detailed (8 times longer than national) • Amended 474 times since 1876 • System prevents accumulation of power • Selection structures and local government power • More opportunity to select elected officials • MANY local offices, plural executive, elect judges

  22. The Texas Constitution of Today • Rights are listed up front, in order to stress limits upon the state’s powers. • The right of the people to dismiss the government is among them. • Very similar to Bill of Rights • Much more detailed and specific • Does not merely mention rights; specifically defines each of them

  23. The Texas Constitution: An Overview

  24. The Texas Constitution of Today • Legislature • Texas House of Representatives • Two-year terms, no limits • Texas Senate • Four-year terms, no limits • Budget must be approved by Comptroller of Public Accounts. • Part-time legislature: 140 days, every other year • Paid by the day (per diem)

  25. The Texas Constitution of Today • Executive • The executive department consists of six offices, five of which are elected. • Not just the governor! • Secretary of state is appointed by the governor with Senate approval • Independently elected offices limit governor power. • Different parties may (and have) hold executive power.

  26. Major Offices in Texas

  27. The Texas Constitution of Today • Courts • Texas effectively has two supreme courts. • Criminal cases: Texas Court of Criminal Appeals • Civil cases: Texas Supreme Court • All justices and judges are elected.

  28. The Texas Constitution of Today • Four stages to amending the constitution • Legislature proposes amendments • Approval by 66 percent of each chamber • Amendments must be published twice in recognized newspapers. • A majority of state voters must approve. • Majority of those who vote; turnout usually low • Thus a low number of actual votes needed

  29. State Constitution Length (estimated) NEVADA 34,418 words Average < 19,999 words VERMONT 8,565 words Shortest 20,000 – 39,999 words 40,000 – 59,999 words 60,000 – 79,999 words 80,000 + words GEORGIA 41,684 words Average TEXAS 86,936 words Second Longest ALABAMA 367,000 words Longest

  30. Amendments Added to Constitution NORTH DAKOTA 150 amendments Average < 75 amendments RHODE ISLAND 10 amendments Lowest 75 – 149 amendments 150 –224 amendments 225 – 300 amendments > 300 amendments TEXAS 467 amendments Fourth Highest ALABAMA 854 amendments Highest

  31. Amending the Texas Constitution

  32. Voter Turnout in Texas Constitutional Amendment Elections Compared with Texas Turnout for Presidential Elections

  33. Some Important Constitutional Amendments

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