Texas Constitution Essay

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The Texas Constitution: An Examination and Discussion

On the most fundamental level, a constitution is a plan or contract between the government and the people governed. A constitution details the agreed-upon powers, responsibilities and limitations upon all involved parties, while asserting the proper procedure for action. The constitution is the foundation for all basic laws upon which the legal system rests. In the history of the existence of the state of Texas, seven separate constitutions have been drafted and approved, with the last one receiving approval on February 15, 1876. The preceding six constitutions were adopted during the following years: 1827, 1836, 1845, 1861, 1866 and 1869. At this time, the current constitution contains amendments that were approved by voters as recently as November of 2017.

An examination of the Texas constitution reflects certain insights about the state and its unique viewpoints about government, autonomy and self-protection. Any state constitution should assert a basic structure of government, itemizing who has which powers when it comes to the people versus the government. Secondly, constitutions have the duty of narrowing the overall power of government by establishing civil liberties held by the people that the government dare not breach. While the Texas Constitution technically fulfills its essential duties, the mistrust of government that pervades within the state lineage and culture ensures that the creation of government policy is a difficult task.

One of the more striking elements about the Constitution of Texas is that it contains a striking mistrust of government and a marked resistance to change. One of the ways that it manifests its mistrust of government and change is the sheer size of the document. The document is 93,000 words long, making it unwieldy and difficult to use and apply effectively. As some scholars assert, “It reflects the state’s individualistic political culture and a mistrust of government, which have translated into weak political institutions across the board. Consistent with its original intent of ensuring state government would never be oppressive, the Texas Constitution fragments and limits government power” (Coleman). The massive size of the document makes it both too long and too complicated to use, along with the fact that many have criticized it of being deliberately badly organized. The overwhelming length and often indecipherable structure undermines all efforts to create change, particularly for a modern society with all the complexities of life in the modern world.

Some argue that an overall distrust of government is the most prominent feature of the constitution of Texas as a whole (Collier et al., 62). “Article I underscores the attitudes of most Texans that ‘all political power is inherent in the people, all free governments are founded on their authority… they have all times the inalienable right to alter, reform, or abolish their government in such a manner as they may think expedient’” (Collier et al., 62). Anti-government notions such as these are riddled throughout the document. For example, another way this manifest is via the context that the government can tax and accumulate debt are clearly itemized: this is so the government can be kept small the powers and money given to the executive branch and state legislature are intentionally kept limited. Another manifestation of this trend is the usage of the long ballot, meaning that all positions in the state are given via election, not simply appointment (Collier et al., 62).

This can at times conflict with the political preferences for limited government as constitutional reform and revision continues to struggle to gain support (Collier et al., 62). Some of the aspects of the document that seek to limit government power undermine this objective by making the document so long-winded. For example, the constitution itemizes the categories of taxes the legislature can and cannot charge, clearly thwarting property tax and forbidding the government from imposing a state income tax without the express approval of the bulk of voters. While the powers of government might by limited, the constitution fails to create an efficient political system.

The rationale for significant changes to the Texas Constitution revolve around how unusable the document is. Many have described it as unwieldy or unmanageable and that it undermines the need for the creation of a streamlined effective government that the fast-paced and intricate needs of modern society require. While this paper has stated repeatedly that the Texas Constitution is way too long, one needs to compare it to the national constitution in order to really get a sense of how long it is: as the….....

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Works Cited

Bruff, Harold H. "Separation of Powers Under the Texas Constitution." Tex. L. Rev. 68 (1989): 1337.

Coleman, Michael. "The Persistence of Limited Government?" Home, 2017, dlc.dcccd.edu/txgov1-2/the-persistence-of-limited-government. Accessed 13 Feb. 2018.

Collier, Ken, Steven Galatas, and Julie Harrelson-Stephens. Lone Star Politics: Tradition and Transformation in Texas. Sage, 2013.

Utexas.edu. "Texas Politics The Constitution." 2006, www.laits.utexas.edu/txp_media/html/cons/print_cons.html#61. Accessed 13 Feb. 2018.

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