Table of Contents
The Texas Constitution Federalism The Context of Texas Politics
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The Texas Constitution
II. The Principal Purposes of Government
A. maintain order
earliest function of government
preserve life and protect private property
B. provide public goods
benefit all but are not likely to be produced by individual voluntary acts
C. promote equality
newest function of government
redistribute income and otherwise help disadvantaged in society
(political equality vs. economic equality)
Citizens differ on how much they want government to maintain order, provide public goods and promote equality.
THE POLITICAL COMPASS TEST
(click on the image to take the test)
Left and Right, although far from obsolete, are essentially a measure of economics and the Left-Right division between mainstream parties is increasingly blurred. Instead, party differences tend to be more about social issues. In an age of diminishing ideology, the very unique Political Compass helps a new generation in particular to get a better understanding of where they stand politically and the political company they keep. Click on the picture above and take the test to find your political ideology!
III. The Values Pursued by Government
the original purpose of government was to impose some order on the lawless ... sometimes referred to as government’s police power
John Locke: the fundamental purpose of government is the protection of life, liberty and property
people have always been willing to give up some freedom for some order
narrow interpretation: protection of life and property (murder, rape, theft)
broad interpretation: social order, using government power to enforce traditional modes of behavior (abortion, alternative medicine, homosexuality, drug use) or to provide certain public goods
all government diminishes freedom to some extent
narrow interpretation: liberty, freedom to ___
broad interpretation: implies immunity from some type of deprivation, relates more closely to the concept of equality, freedom from ___
newest purpose of government
narrow interpretation: political equality (one man, one vote)
broad interpretation: equality of opportunity (capitalism) and, more recently, equality of outcome (socialism)
IV. Political Ideology
...a consistent set of values and beliefs about the purpose and scope of government
American politics can be classified by the values pursued by government:
a. libertarians favor freedom over both order and equality, very limited scope of government
b. conservatives favor freedom over equality BUT favor order over freedom
c. liberals favor freedom over order BUT favor equality over freedom
d. populists favor both order and equality over freedom
V. Texas Constitutional Development
Constitutional development in Texas has had a long and varied history. Take a few moments to look at our various constitutions.
The Constitution of 1824
(Texas was part of the state of Coahuila y Texas, Mexico.)
In 1821, Mexico broke with Spain and formed the Republic of Mexico. The Mexican national constitution established states with the power to write their own state constitutions and form their own state governments. In 1824, the legislature of Coahuila and Texas organized at Saltillo and wrote the new state constitution. Texas was one of three state departments (District of Bexar). Catholicism was established as the state religion. Slavery was restricted. The state government consisted of a unicameral legislature with twelve elected representatives (two from Texas) and a governor and vice-governor elected for four years. Texas and Coahuila were culturally very different. Texas felt that its views had been neglected in the state constitution. Texas had been promised, but not given, trial by jury, public schools, bilingual laws and other things that were important to Texans. It was understood, however, that Texas would be allowed to become an independent state when its population grew.
The Proposed Constitution of 1833
(Written by residents of the proposed state of Texas, Mexico.)
Texas, feeling that it had grown sufficiently to warrant independence, met to draw up a separate state constitution to be submitted to the Mexican national government. Stephen F. Austin took the proposed constitution to Mexico City. The proposal was refused and Austin was imprisoned. Fearing the anger of the Texans, the Coahuila and Texas legislature met in 1834 to make concessions to Texas. In the meantime, however, Santa Anna overthrew the Mexican constitutional government and declared himself dictator. Santa Anna sent corrupt military governments to take over the Mexican states and thus voided all state constitutions. At this point, Texas declared its independence (3/2/36) and civil war followed. The war ended with the Treaty of Velasco (5/14/36) and independence was granted to Texas.
The Constitution of the Republic (1836)
Our only national constitution was based primarily on the US Constitution. It provided for an elected bicameral Congress with representatives from each county and senatorial district. A president and vice president were elected for three-year terms of office. The president was not allowed to lead armies without congressional approval. A Declaration of Rights mirrored the US Bill of Rights, providing religious freedom for the first time – although, no minister was eligible for public office. Congress provided for a general educational system. Avoidance of military service resulted in a loss of citizenship and property, including land. Slavery was legal, but slaves could only be imported from the US. Freed blacks could live in Texas but they needed congressional approval for residency.
The Constitution of 1845
(Texas became a state of the United States.)
The US hesitated to admit Texas due to the slavery issue. It was not until 1845 that the US and Texas were able to work out a treaty. Texas approved annexation with the US and Texas voters and the US Congress approved a state constitution. The new state constitution was two times longer than previous constitutions. It was based on previous constitutions and the constitutions of Louisiana and other southern states. Austin was designated the state capital. The constitution provided for a bicameral legislature with elected two-year representatives and four-year senators. Revenue bills originated in the House. The legislature appointed the comptroller, treasurer and land commissioner. The governor was elected for two years and appointed the attorney general, secretary of state and judges. The governor convened and adjourned the legislature, granted pardons and reprieves and was the commander-in-chief of the militia. The Article of General provisions, the longest article, consisted mainly of limits on the legislature. It also contained measures unique to our Hispanic heritage - protection of homesteads and recognition of community property.
The Constitution of 1861
(Texas seceded to become a state of the Confederate States of America.)
Our 1861 constitution was simply a modification of our previous constitution in order to conform to Texas membership in the CSA. There were few substantive changes. Texans gained citizenship in the CSA., and declared loyalty to the CSA. Constitution. New provisions extended slavery. By in large, however, there was little difference between this constitution and the one prior.
The Constitution of 1866
(Texas is again a state of the US.)
At the end of the Civil War, the provisional governor of Texas called for a constitutional convention. Lincoln imposed only minimum requirements for the restoration of normal relations with the US. These included: a) the specific denial of the right of secession; b) the abolition of slavery; c) the fair and impartial determination of the social and political status of freed men; and, d) the repudiation of the Texas war debt. In the 1866 constitution, Texans met these minimum requirements. They also expanded the governor’s powers and attended to public education. Texans approved the new constitution and elected a new national delegation (representatives and senators) to Washington. Before the new Congress could be seated, Lincoln was shot. Congress, having the upper hand over the Vice President and wanting revenge for the war, refused to seat our delegation and refused to approve the new Texas constitution. The US Constitution requires the US Congress to approve all state constitutions. Congress shows its approval by allowing state delegations to take their seats in their respective chambers. Instead, the US passed the Reconstruction measures and Edmond J. Davis was sent to Texas as our new military governor.
The Constitution of 1869
(This is often referred to as the Reconstruction Constitution.)
Governor Davis called a constitutional convention, appointing his people to be the delegates. They spent most of their time on matters not under their jurisdiction – for example, the division of Texas into three states and chartering railroads – they began actually writing the constitution only ten days prior to their deadline and only received half of delegate votes needed to pass the new constitution. Nonetheless, the military ordered it to be published and the electorate accepted it under pressure. The US Congress also accepted it, making it the law of the land. Most importantly this constitution centralized government. There was a large growth in government expenditures, increased taxation and an accumulation of heavy state debt. The constitution called for a very powerful governor. He controlled the state militia, the state police system, the local governments and the newspapers.
The Constitution of 1876
(This is our current constitution!)
In 1872, the Democrats regained control of the Texas state legislature and, in 1874, they regained control of the governorship. They called the Constitutional Convention of 1875 in order to write a new constitution and get rid of the Reconstruction Constitution.
In early September of 1875, the constitutional convention met in Austin. Of the 90 delegates elected:
o 76 were Democrats; 14 were Republicans (including 6 African Americans).
o The delegates' average age was 45.
o 72 were immigrants from other Southern states; 19 from Tennessee.
o About 50 had come to Texas between 1840 and 1870 and had first hand experience with Reconstruction.
o 33 were lawyers; 28 were farmers; 3 were merchants; 3 were physicians; 2 were editors; 2 were teachers; 2 were mechanics; 1 was a minister; and 1 was a postmaster.
o Many had held high ranks in the Confederate Army; 3 had been Union Army officers.
o None had been members of the Convention of 1869.
The delegates were determined to include as many safeguards as possible in order to prevent previous abuses. They wanted a state government in which no branch could dominate. This constitution is not an ideological document, but rather an extensive list of practical answers to potential problems. Texans of this time (and to some extent still today) felt that no government could be based on a theory of man's generosity or goodness. Therefore, they included as many limitations on potential temptations as possible. Their main goal was restraining individuals in government positions from wrongdoing. The final document is exceedingly lengthy, detailed and repetitive … but it provided a fairly adequate government at that time. It is so detailed that it had had to be constantly changed as times have changed. The principal means by which constitutional change has occurred in Texas since 1876 is constitutional amendment. Fortunately, it has a rather simple method of amendment. The 1876 constitution is based mainly on the Constitution of 1845 and on the constitutions of other states, such as Pennsylvania and Louisiana. As in those constitutions, the 1876 Texas Constitution embraced the concept of separation of powers -- placing lawmaking, law enforcing and law interpreting powers in distinct departments of government. The governor of Texas has very little power. In order to decentralize executive authority, executive powers were given to several executive officers, almost all of them elected.
The experiences of the post-Civil War period led to the complex, arcane, restrictive and, in the end, contradictory founding document with which Texas continues to be saddled today. These complexities and contradictions have only deepened as the state moves farther and farther from the political, economic and social conditions of the time when the original document was developed. Its current form bears 140 years worth of patches, each one reflecting the specific period in which Texans tried, both successfully and unsuccessfully, to alter it.
The legislature was reigned in through salary reductions, biennial legislative sessions and only specific mandates of power. The 1876 Texas Constitution is lengthy, confusing and badly written ... but it has served its purpose. Look closely at our current constitution. Do you think it is time for a change or do you feel "if it ain't broke, don't fix it"?
The Constitutional Convention of 1974
Texans have tried a number of times since 1876 to write a new and updated constitution. The last serious effort was in 1974. At that time the Texas legislature met as a constitutional convention. They couldn't agree, however, on the inclusion of a right-to-work provision. When all was said and done, the proposed constitution didn't pass the delegate vote. The legislature tried to use piecemeal methods to amend the 1876 constitution with what would have been the 1974 constitution, but the voters would not approve.
ODD TEXAS LAWS
VI. Civil Liberties and the Texas Constitution
Civil liberties concern the protection of the individual from the unrestricted power of government. In America's federal system, states and localities must grant their residents at least as many rights as those guaranteed by the US Constitution (as interpreted by the US Supreme Court). If state and local governments so chose, however, they may grant their residents more rights than afforded in the US Constitution.
Throughout most of this century, whenever individuals and groups have sought relief from state laws and actions that they considered infringements of individual rights and liberties, they have turned not to state courts for protection under state bills of rights, but to the national courts and the national Bill of Rights. As the US Supreme Court has interpreted the individual-rights guarantees of the US Constitution more restrictively, state constitutions, as interpreted by state courts, have come to play a more prominent role as defenders of individual rights. In Texas, state courts have relied on the Texas Constitution to expand civil liberties in several policy areas involving the legal principles of equal protection of the law and due process of law.
Article I of the Texas Constitution, like the national Bill of Rights, provides for equality under the law, religious freedom, due process, and freedom of speech and press. It also protects the mentally incompetent and provides specific guarantees such as the one prohibiting the outlawing of an individual from the state. The provisions of Article I are broadly supported by the state's citizens and have been left intact during modern constitutional revision efforts.
VII. State Constitutions in Comparative Perspective
A. common features
1. separation of powers/fragmented power
2. Bill of Rights — often more extensive than federal Bill of Rights
B. comparing the US and state constitutions — general patterns
a. brief (4300 words)
b. flexible language that adapts with the times
c. few amendments needed (27)
d. amendments are fundamental
e. discretion for elected officials to govern
So just exactly what are the results of such a long, detailed constitution? There is no longer much distinction between statutory law and constitutional law. A constitution should contain only fundamental law. Yet under the Texas constitution, for example, the maximum expenditures for the major social security programs cannot be changed without a constitutional amendment. What is fundamental about this? Does it deserve the same status as the guarantee of a jury trial? Too, matters of temporary importance are often made permanent. We have constitutional provisions in effect that no longer even apply to society. One major result is that the burden on the courts is increased. The more constitutional provisions there are, the more chances for an unconstitutional law and the more cases in the courts contesting the validity of laws.
With a state constitution such as ours, the hands of the state legislature are tied. In many instances the legislature has not been able to act upon questions of importance to the state because of constitutional restrictions. This, in turn, has resulted in more amendments. Thus a vicious circle is created. Thus, dependence of the state upon the federal government tends to increase.
VIII. Amending State Constitutions
The Texas constitution has almost 400 amendments. Over the last century, most amendments have dealt with policy issues that should have been resolved by the state legislature. Apart from the general inadequacy of the original Constitution of 1876, why are there so many amendments? Most of the amendments fall into seven categories. Many deal with the need to increase the powers of the legislature as new issues and demands develop. Too, by putting salaries in the constitution, amendments are needed to raise the salaries of state officials. A number of changes in the judiciary have been required in order to correct errors in the original document, speed up court procedures, and improve the structure of the courts. Amendments have been needed to incorporate new ideas of social legislation – public welfare, retirement systems, etc. – all had to be added to the constitution. Too, there is a tendency to amend the constitution as a result of the activities of strong interest groups. It was this problem that brought about the defeat of the 1974 constitution. Over the years, Texans have incorporated a number of ideas concerning governmental reform, home rule cities for example, each of which required an amendment. Finally, a large number of amendments deal with lengthening the terms of county officials. It was necessary to amend the constitution in twelve places in order to change county terms from two years to four years.
What is needed in a good constitution? I would maintain that only four things are needed: a bill of rights, the structure of government, the powers of government, and an amendment process. Certainly this structure has served the US constitution very well for over two decades.
I. The Federal System
A federal system divides governmental power between a national and state governments, giving powers to each which neither can take away from the other. In our federal system the Constitution is supreme. The Constitution addresses national-state relations in a number of ways.
The national government may tax, print money, raise an army and etc. These enumerated powers are found in Article I, Section 8. At the very end of Section 8, the writers of the Constitution added the "necessary and proper" clause. This clause allows the national government to do whatever is necessary and proper to execute its powers. It is these implied powers which have contributed greatly to the scope of the national government.
Although Article I, Section 10 forbids the states certain powers -- such as printing money, raising armies, entering treaties, etc – the 10th Amendment reserves to the states and the people all powers not specifically reserved for the national government. In other words the states were allowed to do anything not listed in Article I, Section 10.
What appeared to be a balance in favor of the states, however, has shifted over the past two centuries due to broad interpretations of the necessary and proper clause and the use of federal funds which carry conditions which could otherwise not be imposed on the states. Although we Texans often complain about the power of the national government, how much would we really like to roll back the past? Should we be allowed to make our own decisions about racial equality, gender equality, welfare or other important issues?
II. Relations Between States
The US Constitution also addresses state-state relations in Article IV. The full faith and credit clause requires each state to enforce the civil judgments of other states and to accept their public records and acts as valid, especially non-criminal acts. A good example of this the acceptance of marriages by all states.
The interstate privileges and immunities clause says that states may not deny to the citizens of other states the full protection of the laws, the right to engage in peaceful occupations, or access to the courts. This does not extend to political rights or to rights in public, taxpayer supported institutions.
Extradition is the concept that a state shall (interpreted to mean it can if it wants to) deliver to proper officials criminals who have fled from another state when requested to do so by the government of the state from which the criminals have fled. There have been numerous examples of states who have refused to "give back" criminals.
Finally, the US Constitution requires states to settle their disputes with one another without the use force. They may carry their legal arguments to the Supreme Court or they may negotiate interstate compacts, which must be approved by Congress.
The Context of Texas Politics
I. Settlement Patterns
1. Rio Grande Valley and South Texas
2. traditional culture
1. East Texas: migrated from deep south (traditional culture)
2. West Texas: migrated from upper south (individual culture)
1. hill country
2. individual culture
II. Population Growth and Changing Demographics
When we talk about Texas politics, we must look at the characteristics of our population. Who are we and what do we look like? The 1990 census set our population at approximately 17 million. This gave us 32 electoral votes in presidential elections since 1992 – one of the largest in the union. The highest rate of population growth has been in suburban counties. Urbanization has become a characteristic of the Texas population. Approximately 80% of our population is urban. The most populated area of our state is the area defined by Dallas/Fort Worth, Austin/San Antonio, and Houston. This Texas Triangle is a densely populated area bounded by Interstate Highways 45, 35 and 10.
By 2050 about 35 million people, or 70% of the population of Texas, will live in the four metropolitan areas that comprise the Texas Triangle. Three of the nation's 10 largest cities are in the Triangle, including Houston, which has a port that handles more foreign tonnage than any other US port. Efforts to create a NAFTA superhighway from Mexico to Canada could create a developed corridor through San Antonio, Austin and Dallas. Tradition and economics create the potential for economic collaboration between the metro regions, which could also address serious environmental concerns.
Principal Cities: Austin, Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio
Population 2010: 19,728,244
Percent of US Population: 6%
Population 2025: 24,809,567
Population 2050: 38,132,600
Projected Growth (2010 - 2050): 93.3% (18,404,356)
2005 GDP: $817,510,000,000
Percent of US GDP: 7%
III. Political Culture
In order to understand a political system, you must first understand the political culture of that group of people. Political culture refers to a community’s habits, attitudes and patterns of behavior regarding government. Texas has a rather unique political culture. Historically, we tend to have an Old South mindset. The characteristics associated with the Old South culture are both positive and negative.
On the plus side, the Old South encouraged individualism, conservatism, moralism and traditionalism. It also encouraged, however, elitism, racism and sexism. The political ‘players’ in the Old South, then, tended to all be wealthy, conservative, white males. As the rest of the population began to take an interest in politics, the Old South culture quickly led to both apathy and alienation.
Apathy is the attitude "I don’t care what they do." Alienation is the converse – "They don’t care what I do." Apathy and alienation tend to contribute to each other and are directly reflected in the extremely low voter turnouts in Texas. After all, if the government doesn’t care about me, why should I care about it and why would I want to bother to vote? These habits and attitudes are changing in Texas … but slowly. Look at your own political attitudes. How well/poorly do you reflect those above? Are you a native or a transplanted Texan? Do you think this Old South mentality still exists in Texas today or is this all a part of the past?
Violence has always been a part of Texas culture. Texans had to fight everyone for the right to exist. Consequently, they grew accustomed to the use of force to settle disputes.
The land has also greatly affected our political culture. In Texas, land was seen as wealth – but the land was, by and large, hard and dry, developing a sense of independence in Texans. Land has been the basis for growth of three major economic undertakings: cotton, cattle and oil. The East Texas oil field was the richest in the state. The most recent shock to our economy was the 1980s collapse of petroleum prices.
The sheer size of Texas greatly affects our sense of pride, of time and distance, and of speed. Our social and cultural differences in such a large state are greater than in many other states. Texas has always had a problem with regionalism. The state can be divided into any number of areas based on any number of criteria - geographic diversity, religious diversity, cultural diversity, educational differences, ethnic diversity, economic diversity, language differences and socioeconomic differences. This much diversity can and does create political conflict.
A. Influences on Texas Political Culture
1. historical influences
a. Old South
B. Types of Political Culture
C. The Political Culture of Texas
1. traditional/individual: based on settlement patterns
2. traditional: East Texas, Rio Grande Valley
3. individual: Hill country, West Texas
D. The Impact of Political Culture on Public Policy
1. low taxes
2. less spending on government services
3. opposition to expanded civil rights
4. states rights
5. opposition to labor unions
E. Governmental Institutions and Policies Reflect the Culture of the State.
IV. The Changing Economy
1. cotton, cattle and oil
2. 1800s: land-based
3. 20th century: oil and gas
B. 21st century
1. diversified economy
3. manufacturing, technology and finance
Texas is the future of America.
When Will Texas Emerge From the Dark?