Before answering these questions, read the section of your textbook in which the Texas Constitution is discussed, particularly the discussion of the current Texas Constitutional system (pp. 59–62; pp. 60–63 in the Sixth Edition) and some of the major criticisms of our current Constitution (pp. 62–68; pp.69-75 in the Sixth Edition).
Although it remains the governing document of the state of Texas in this modern era, the Texas Constitution is distinctly a product of the end-of-Reconstruction period in which it was written. The 1876 Constitution is notorious for a variety of reasons, including
1) its length: it stands as the second-longest of all state constitutions, including its (at last count) 507 amendments. (On a similar note, it is also criticized for its generally disorganized structure and unwieldiness.)
2) its focus on specific limitations on governmental power rather than on laying out a fundamental set of laws. Constitutional scholars generally recommend the latter approach to states concerned with producing more effective constitutions.
3) its severe restrictions on governmental powers, which, although consistent with Texans’ traditional skepticism of granting too much power to the government, have been criticized for making it difficult for Texas to adapt to the changing state landscape. The constitution has been criticized as “outdated and inadequate for such a large and diverse state,” while features included with the intention of retaining power with the people and not the government have been criticized for increasing the clout of big business interests.
Other particular criticisms of the system created by the 1876 Constitution include Texas’s continued reliance on biennial legislative sessions, the low salaries of state legislators (which tend to have the impact of restricting service largely to the wealthy and well-connected), our weak “plural executive” system, and our system of electing state judges—which tends to make them more politicized figures, constantly focused on raising the necessary funds to stay in office.
What do you think? Do you tend to agree with some or all of the criticisms leveled by the authors of the textbook at the system of government created by the 1876 Constitution? Are there certain features you see as more problematic than others? Consider the difficulties encountered in recent decades by those seeking to reform the system. Do you think a modern effort to change major aspects of the Constitution via either a complete overhaul or through substantial, extensive amendments would suffer the same fate as previous attempts? Do you have any ideas that you believe would be effective toward helping constitutional reform to succeed?
On the other hand, in acknowledging the difficulties encountered regarding reforming the system, the authors write thusly: “Most Texans, even as they acknowledge the problems with the current Constitution, still distrust more the potential problems of a new one.” Do you tend to relate to this common tendency among Texans to be skeptical of the idea of substantial changes being made to the political system? Do you believe that large-scale reforms or a complete overhaul of the Texas Constitution would be likely to create more problems than they would fix? Why or why not?