Government 2301 Modem

September 1998

Unit 1 - Lecture 5

The Texas Constitution

1. Why Are State Constitutions Necessary?

Constitutions, both state and national, serve to describe the form of government for that state, give power to that government, and limit the power of the government.

Each state in the United States has a constitution and they are quite different, although they often share some common characteristics. Most important, all state constitutions, regardless of the differences, must comply with the national constitution. States may choose to give their citizens more protections or they may choose to give their governments more powers or different powers from other states, but, they may not violate the provisions of the U.S. Constitution, therefore, they may never give their citizens fewer protections than citizens receive from the national document.

2. A Proposed Constitution

The most recent state constitution to have been formulated is a proposed document for Washington, D.C. Washington D.C. is not currently part of any state, but there are efforts being made to grant statehood to the city. In anticipation, some advocates of statehood for Washington, D.C. has developed a constitution for the city. This proposed constitution calls for a unicameral (one-chambered) legislature like that of only one state, Nebraska, the stipulation that public employees may strike, a guarantee of employment for all citizens, and state aid for pregnancy leave. It is interesting to note that this proposed constitution is quite different from many state constitutions, but that is likely a reaction to the city's history as the only city in the United States to be covered by only the U.S. Constitution.

3. Characteristics of Most State Constitutions

Most state constitutions share the following characteristics:

1. They are longer than the U.S. Constitution

2. They are more detailed than the U.S. Constitution

3. They are not well organized

4. They are amended much more often than the U.S. Constitution

20 states have had only one constitution in their history. Most state constitutions call for a separation of powers between several branches of government and most have a bill of rights to explicitly protect the rights of individual citizens.

4. Characteristics of the Texas Constitution

The Texas Constitution is very long and detailed, it has over 300 amendments, it has a bill of rights which includes protection of speech, religion, and the press, it provides for separation of powers and checks and balances. The Texas Constitution also provides for Texas to have a bicameral legislature, as well as a 3-branched government consisting of an executive office (the governor and the plural executive), a legislature (the House and Senate), and a rather complicated judiciary which you will examine in Government 2302.

It is interesting to note that the Texas Bill of Rights includes an equal rights amendment, protecting citizens regardless of gender. A similar amendment was proposed but was never ratified.

Another interesting characteristic of the Texas Constitution is that it provides for a very limited and weak state government. The executive office is weakened by the division of power between several elected officials and the judiciary is split into many different courts, each with only limited authority. This was intentional on the part of the Grangers who were the largest group of delegates to the constitutional convention.

3. Studying this Chapter

It is not necessary that you memorize the dates that each constitution was adopted. But you should become familiar with the political changes connected to each change of constitution. Also, be sure to become familiar with the general characteristics of the constitution, the role of the Grangers, the process for amending the constitution, and the attempts, in the 1970s, to overhaul the document.

Read: Tannahill, Chapter 2