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Texas, like many other states, has worked under a series of Constitutions, each of which has added to the state’s constitutional legacy. Each is appropriately understood from the perspective of the duration in which it was adopted. The existing Constitution was written in 1876 after the termination of Restoration policies. Because reconstruction policies were oppressive, the Constitution was created to put strong restraints on federal government to protect versus future abuses of power. Today, the file is so limiting that many believe it is detrimental.
Nevertheless, a rewrite of the Constitution has been evasive, due to special interests and others who think that they take advantage of the existing system.
The 1876 Constitution was asserted on the theory that governmental excesses could be lessened by carefully specifying what governments might and could not do. The file was built on the national constitutional custom and embodies 3 dominant concepts: popular sovereignty, limited government, and separation of powers. The post-Reconstruction Texan choice for an independent judiciary is shown in a chosen judicial branch.
The of the Texas Constitution stopped working to expect that the constraints they troubled governmental institutions would eventually permit major financial interests within the state to dominate the policy-making process, often to the detriment of the lower socioeconomic groups. What the delegates to the Texas Constitutional Convention of 1875 related to as the strengths of the constitution– fragmented authority, detailed constraints on the power of governmental organizations, and decentralization– have served to limit the ability of state and regional federal governments to adapt successfully to economic and demographic modifications.
The viewed options to a number of the issues of 1875 have actually intensified the issues of state and city governments in the 2000s.
Efforts to overhaul the Texas Constitution have failed. Consequently, the state has been forced to amend the document continually on a piecemeal basis. Fully 409 amendments were approved by Texas voters between 1876 and 2002, while 172 were rejected. The first amendment was adopted on September 2, 1879. A record twenty-five amendments were on the November 3, 1987 ballot. In 1999, a proposal to rewrite the constitution, the first such proposal in twenty years, was rejected by the Legislature. This process has produced some success in modernizing the charter, but many structural problems of state government require major institutional changes that cannot be resolved through this amendment process.
In many ways, the Texas Constitution reflects the values of the state’s conservative political culture, which continues to be suspicious of far-reaching constitutional changes. Moreover, constitutions and debates that surround them are complex, and most people give little attention to these issues. Consequently, it is much easier to mobilize public opinion against rather than for wholesale change.
Over the years, numerous groups have attempted to protect their interests through constitutional amendments. But the same groups usually oppose any proposed changes that threaten their influence, power, or benefits. Consequently, the interests of small segments of the state’s population often prevail over the interests of the majority.
A revision of the Texas Constitution would require large amounts of political capital to challenge or accommodate the numerous special interests who benefit from provisions in the current charter. Until the Constitution is revised, the state legislature will continue to put several proposed amendments on the ballot, as needed, to deal with issues and problems that the 1876 Constitution could not have envisioned.
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