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Texas Constitution & Government: Overview & Processes

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

Like all US states, Texas has its own constitution. In this lesson, we'll explore this document and see how it outlines the structure of the Texas state government.

Texas

The United States of America contains 50 states. You probably knew that. But, did you know that only two of those states were independent nations before joining the USA? And did you know that only one of those was admitted directly into statehood without ever having to be a US territory first? That state is Texas. Admitted into the Union in 1845, Texas has been a major player in American society ever since.

The Texas Constitution

Texas, like all US states, maintains its own state constitution that outlines the basic structures and principles of its government. The current constitution was adopted in 1876, but it's actually the 7th constitution Texas has drafted for itself. The first was back in 1827, when Texas was still part of Mexico but preparing to secede. They then drafted a new constitution as the Republic of Texas in 1836, and then their first state constitution upon joining the USA in 1845. Texas re-wrote the constitution again in 1861, when it seceded from the USA to join the Confederacy, and had to re-draft this document two more times in the post-Civil War era before finally arriving at their current version.

The current Texas state constitution was drafted in 1876
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Apart from this long history, the Texas constitution is also…long. Currently, this document contains nearly 500 amendments, making it one of the longest state constitutions in the USA. By contrast, the United States Constitution only contains 27 amendments). So, why have Texans amended their constitution so many times? It's important to remember that Texas was always big on the notion of individual liberties, and thus fearful of giving any government too much power. As a result, it was decided that the state government only had the powers expressly granted by the constitution. If a power is not in the constitution, Texas' government can't just say that the power is implied. They have to amend the constitution.

The Bill of Rights

When the United States was founded, the founding figures disagreed on whether or not a bill of rights should be in the constitution. They decided against it, then changed their minds and added one in the form of the first ten amendments. By the time that Texas was founded, it was common practice to include a bill of rights in the state constitutions, and that's what Texas did. In fact, they made their Bill of Rights the very first article.

Article One, the Bill of Rights, originally contained 29 rights guaranteed to the peoples of Texas. This has since been expanded to 34. For the most part, these rights are the same as those found across the United States, including things like freedom of speech and right to assembly. However, there are some unique additions. Texans are guaranteed a right to hunt and fish, for example. Texas' Bill of Rights also outlaws same-sex marriage, but that was overridden by national law in 2015.

The Texas State Government

Following the Bill of Rights, the Texas Constitution next outlines the structures of the state government. Like all other US states, Texas divides power between three separate branches in order to prevent any part of the government from becoming too powerful. That idea is very important in Texas, and it's in Article 2, The Powers of Government, that the government is only given those powers ''expressly permitted'' by the constitution.

Article 3: The Legislative Department

The first branch of Texas' government, as outlined in Article 3, is the legislative. The legislative branch is in charge of making laws for the state of Texas. Like the United States Congress, the Texas Legislature is divided into two houses: a Senate and a House of Representatives. The Texas Legislature contains 31 Senators and 150 Representatives.

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