"Governing Texas" Chapter 2: The Texas Constitutional Convention of 1974

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Why is Tx Constitution important?
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-rights guaranteed to Texans that go far beyond those of the U.S. Constitution -By placing these in the Bill of Rights of the Texas Constitution, particular policy positions take on a protected status. It is more difficult to change a right enshrined in the Texas Constitution than it is to change a policy backed by statutory law.
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Amending TX Constitution v amending US Constitution
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-Every few years, the Texas Legislature presents to the voters a list of proposed amendments to the state constitution -voter approval is necessary for the amendments to the Texas Constitution to take effect -since 1789 there have been only 27 amendments to the U.S. Constitution but 483 amendments to the Texas Constitution as of 2013 -electorate is asked to give its approval of certain policy initiatives directly through the amendment process, something that is inconceivable at the national level -Far more than the U.S. Constitution, the Texas Constitution is involved with public policy and must be taken into account by Texas legislators seeking to address problems in new and innovative ways.
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What do amendments to TX Constitution deal with?
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-Can deal with overall structural issues of government ex. giving the governor limited authority to remove appointed statewide officials.-Can function like those to the U.S. Constitution. ex. abolished the office of the state treasurer, placing its duties in the Texas Comptroller’s Office-There are many more amendments to the Texas Constitution that have dealt with technical problems in the constitution than to US Constitution, reflecting efforts to clean up specific language in the state constitution that was now out of date. ex. In 2013, Proposition 2 eliminated language relating to a State Medical and Education Board and a State Medical Education Fund, neither of which were operational. -grapple with pressing policy matters ex.
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Criticism to TX Constitution
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-fails to meet the needs of a modern dynamic state. -efforts to introduce a fundamental reform have floundered -politicians must bring the constitution up to date in a piecemeal manner -Not well understood by the population as a whole.
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Main functions of state constitutions
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-legitimate state political institutions by clearly explaining the source of their power and authority -delegate power, explaining which powers are granted to particular institutions and individuals and how those powers are to be used. -prevent the concentration of political power by providing political mechanisms that check and balance the powers of one political institution or individual officeholder against another. -define the limits of political power. Through declarations of rights, state constitutions explicitly forbid the intrusion of certain kinds of governmental activities into the lives of individuals.
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Five ideas unite the U.S. and Texas constitutional experiences.
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1. political power ultimately derived from the people. -US Const preamble: “We the People of the United States”-“the People of the State of Texas, do ordain and establish this Constitution.2. separation of powers. -legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government have their own unique powers derived from the people. -Each branch has its corresponding duties and obligations. 3. Checks and balances – intent of writing a constitution was not just to establish effective governing institutions -purpose was also to create political institutions that would not tyrannize the very people who established them. -embody the ideas articulated by James Madison in The Federalist Papers, nos. 10, 47, and 51. 4. Individual rights: TX Const guarantees broader set of rights than U.S. -Government is explicitly forbidden to violate a number of particular rights -freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom of religion, are guaranteed by both the U.S. & TX Constitution -.Texas Constitution guarantees rights not found in the U.S. Constitution, such as victims’ rights and the right to “efficient system of public free schools.” 5. Federalism -division of government into a central government and a series of regional governments -Both kinds of government exercise direct authority over individual citizens -“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
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James Madison- The Federalist Papers, nos. 10, 47, and 51.
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-prevent tyranny by pitting the self-interest of officeholders in one branch against the self-interest of officeholders in the other branches -constitutional means combined with self-interest ensure that officeholders had an interest in preserving a balance among the different branches.
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Separation of Powers
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the division of governmental power among several institutions that must cooperate in decision making
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Checks and balances
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the constitutional idea that overlapping power is given to different branches of government to limit the concentration of power in any one branch
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Tyranny
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according to James Madison, the concentration of power in any one branch of government
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Federalism
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a system of government in which power is divided, by a constitution, between a central government and regional governments
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Difference between U.S. Const and Texas Const.
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1. Article VI of the U.S. Constitution contains the supremacy clause, -Laws of the United States to be “the supreme Law of the Land.”-requires all judges in every state to be bound by the U.S. Constitution-U.S. Constitution thus takes precedence over the Texas Constitution. 2. Necessary and proper clause of Article I, Section 8 -granting Congress the power necessary to accomplish its constitutional tasks. -net effect of this clause was to provide a constitutional basis for an enormous expansion of central government activities over the next 200-plus years.
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Supremacy Clause
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Article VI of the U.S. Constitution, which states that the Constitution and laws passed by the national government and all treaties are the supreme law of the land and superior to all laws adopted by any state or any subdivision
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Necessary and Proper Clause
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Article I, Section 8, of the U.S. Constitution; it provides Congress with the authority to make all laws “necessary and proper” to carry out its powers
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Texas has operated under seven constitutions
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1. when it was part of a state under the Mexican political regime prior to Independence 2. as an independent republic 3. as a member of the Confederacy 4,5,6,7. four as a state in the United States
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The Constitution of Coahuila y Tejas, 1827
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-Mexican War of Independence grew out of a series of revolts against Spanish rule during the Napoleonic Wars. -Spain sought to extract more wealth from its colonies -forced abdication of Ferdinand VII in favor of Napoleon’s brother Joseph in 1808 and economic crisis undermined the legitimacy of Spanish rule -formally divided into three separate districts, with Texas composing the District of Bexar. -Legislative power for the state was placed in a unicameral legislature: comprising one body or house, as in a one-house legislature -wide-ranging legislative powers -CHALLENGED SLAVERY -promote education and freedom of the press -Catholicism was the established state religion
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Texas Declaration of Independence, 1836 The Constitution of the Republic of Texas, 1836
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-Americans immigrating into Texas threatened Mexico and they tried to limit immigration -Growing discontent led to November 7, 1835, declaration: proclaimed that Texas was rising up in defense of its rights and liberties as well as the republican principles articulated in the Mexican Constitution of 1824. -Echoing the American Declaration of Independence, they presented a long list of grievances against the central government, including the failure to provide freedom of religion, a system of public education, and trial by jury.
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The Constitution of the Republic of Texas, 1836
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-established an elected chief executive with considerable powers -bicameral legislature: having a legislative assembly composed of two chambers or houses -four-tiered judicial system composed of justice, county, district, and supreme courts -Three branches, and a system of checks and balances -procedures for amending the constitution, and a bill of rights was elaborated. -provisions from Spanish-Mexican law were adapted for the Texas Republic in the constitution, including the idea of community property, homestead exemptions and protections, and debtor relief -!!DEFENSE OF SLAVERY!!
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Constitution of 1845
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-legislature would be composed of two houses -Amending the Constitution of 1845 was difficult: amendments had to be approved by a majority of the voters
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Constitution of 1861: Texas Joins the Confederacy
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-slavery had delayed Texas’s admission into the United States for nine years, until 1845. -Pressure to secede mounted following the presidential election of Abraham Lincoln in November 1860 -This constitution was similar to the Constitution of 1845 except that references to the United States of America were replaced with references to the Confederate States of America -freeing slaves was declared illegal -resuming the African slave trade, was rejected
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The Constitution of 1866: Texas Rejoins the Union
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-strong Unionist and secessionist factions at the convention. -bring the state into compliance with Reconstruction: – rejection of the right to secession – a repudiation of the war debt incurred by the state – acceptance of the abolition of slavery
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The Reconstruction Constitution of 1869
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– still to meet the requirements of the Congressional Reconstruction Acts of 1867. -Radical Republicans won the vote for a convention -U.S. Constitution was declared to be the supreme law of the land -Slavery was forbidden -blacks were given the right to vote -Fourteenth Amendment guarantees of equality before the law were recognized -altered the relationship among the three branches of government -powers of the governor were vastly expanded -state supreme court was reduced
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Radical Republicans
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a bloc of Republicans in the U.S. Congress who pushed through the adoption of black suffrage as well as an extended period of military occupation of the South following the Civil War
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The Constitution of 1876
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– basis for Texas government today -era of agriculture when prices and incomes were low and when little was demanded or expected from government 1. strong popular control of state government -specifically control by white males 2. limit the power of state government -Executive authority was diffused among numerous officeholders -legislature was part-time 3.sought economy in government. -local control over education, white landowners could avoid paying taxes for the education of black students 4. promote agrarian interests, particularly those of small farmers, who formed the basis of support for the Grange movement. -protecting homesteads and restricting banks and railroads -over the years the constitution became an increasingly unwieldy document.
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The Grange
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a militant farmers’ movement of the late nineteenth century that fought for improved conditions for farmers
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U.S. Const is brief while Texas Const is cumbersome
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– reflects the writers’ fears of what government could do if the principle of limited government was not clearly established.
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The Preamble
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“Humbly invoking the blessings of Almighty God, the people of the State of Texas do ordain and establish this Constitution.”
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Article 1: Bill of Rights
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– right to republican government: representative democracy, a system of government in which power is derived from the people
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Article 2: The Powers of Govt
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-three distinct branches: the legislative, the executive, and the judicial.
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Article 3: Legislative Department
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-Article 3 is the longest -vests legislative power in two houses: a Senate of 31 members and a House of Representatives of no more than 150 members -limits on what the legislature can do -limits the state legislature to the financial calculations and endorsements of the comptroller, a check on the legislature all but unimaginable to the writers of the U.S. Constitution – variety of policy problems, including lotteries, emergency service districts, the problem of debt creation, problems surrounding the Veterans’ Land Board and the Texas Water Development Board, Texas park development, the creation of a state medical education board, and even the establishment of an economic development fund in support of the now defunct superconducting supercollider.
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Article 4: Executive Department
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-the executive shall consist of six distinct offices 1. the governor, who serves as the chief executive 2. the lieutenant governor, who serves as the president of the Senate 3. the secretary of state, who keeps the official seals of the state 4. the comptroller of public accounts 5. commissioner of the General Land Office 6. the attorney general, who acts as the state’s chief legal officer-creating a plural executive: an executive branch in which power is fragmented because the election of statewide officeholders is independent of the election of the governor-guarantees its members will have independent political bases in the electorate
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Article 5: Judicial Department
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-one supreme court to hear civil cases -one court of criminal appeals to hear criminal cases -lots of lesser courts and ability to make even more! – the people to watch over the courts.
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Article 6: Suffrage
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-who may vote in Texas
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Article 7: Education
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-“an efficient system of public free schools.”
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Article 8: Taxation and Revenue
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-One of the most controversial sections of the Texas Constitution centers on the issue of the income tax -Section 1 enables the legislature to tax the income of individuals and businesses. -Section 24 requires that the registered voters in the state approve a personal income tax and that the proceeds from this tax be dedicated to education and tax relief.
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Articles 10, 12, 13, and 14
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10. the railroads 12. private corporations 13. Spanish and Mexican land titles 14. public lands
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Article 15: Impeachment
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-House has the power to impeach. -Senate has the power to try the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, land-office commissioner, and comptroller, as well as judges of the supreme court, the courts of appeal, and district courts. -all officers against whom articles of impeachment are proffered are suspended from their office -does not explicitly define impeachable offenses in terms of “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors,” -providing a new way to remove officials appointed by the governor.
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Article 16: General Provisions
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-one of the lengthiest in the Texas Constitution and has no parallel in the U.S. Constitution -catchall article tackling a variety of issues -Complexity and confusion
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Article 17: Amending the Constitution is difficult
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-amendments undergo a four-stage process: 1. legislature must meet to propose amendments 2. amendments must be approved by a two-thirds vote 3. brief statement explaining the amendments must be published twice in each recognized newspaper 4. amendments must be approved by a majority of the state voters.
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Recent Attempts to Rewrite the Texas Constitution
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(The Constitution of Texas has been amended 483 times since its inception in 1876)
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Sharpstown and the Failed Constitutional Reforms of 1974
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-major stock fraud -led to a demand for a new constitution to replace the outmoded 1876 document. -Many positions replaced -Constitutional convention met on January 8, 1974, in Austin. The idea was for the convention to draft a new constitution that would then be presented to state voters for ratification. -impossible to reach the necessary agreement -Each proposal, however, was turned down by the electorate in a special election on November 4, 1975
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The 1999 Ratliff-Junell Proposal
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-“It’s time for Texas to have a constitution that’s appropriate for the twenty-first century.” -1876 Constitution was too restrictive and cumbersome -1999 and 2001, amendments were approved “to eliminate duplicative, executed, obsolete, archaic, and ineffective provisions” -governor would be given the authority to appoint several state officeholders and appoint all appellate and district judges. -local voters would be given the authority to abolish their own county’s obsolete offices without statewide approval -DID NOT PASS
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Recent Amendments
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-voting participation is invariably low -(1) Constitutional amendment elections are usually held in “off” years when there are no elections with candidates on the ballot. limited only to the activities of interest groups. -(2) Many of the amendments are relatively insignificant to most voters.-Proposition 2, which defined marriage in Texas as the union of one man and one woman. – a significant part of the voting population apparently believed that it was important to vote their moral values, even if the proposal was largely symbolic.
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Themes of this chapter
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1. Texas’s current constitution is far more complex than its predecessors or the U.S. Constitution 2. Texas Constitution is based on a general distrust of politicians and political power. Hard to implement and successfully administer public policies. 3. difficult document to replace

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