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The Texas constitution in place today was written in 1876 and has a legacy that can be defined in accordance with the prevailing circumstances during the period of its adoption. To understand the negative sentiments echoed over time in regard to its inappropriateness in this day and age, it is necessary to understand the needs and urges that it sought to address during its adoption. It was written after the reconstruction period during which time the majority felt that the government had grown to be very powerful and influential usurping the role of the individuals in the state.
The amended constitution was seeking to protect the Texas citizens against any further infringement of their rights and freedoms by the government. That was then, and many believe it was able to serve its purpose effectively. However, there has over time been a general feeling and strong sentiments in support of radical changes in the constitution. To a large portion, it had become rather restrictive and only serving the interests of a small number of people in the elite. In spite of these widely held opinions, comprehensive reforms have been compounded by a clique of power-wielding individuals that are largely believed to be the beneficiaries of the status quo (Edward M. Walters, 22).
The constitution is wordy and detailed to a fault when compared to other constitutions of the various states. The current constitution contains more than a hundred thousand words, meshed together, but they contain no specific guidelines on government policies. It should be understood that in the writing of this constitution, much resentment had been directed to the government after the then governor Davis refused to relinquish office forcing people, especially in the lower bracket income to forcefully remove him from office.
With the thoughts of the civilian revolution still in mind, there arose a need to re-write the constitution that witnessed the creation of a constitution that devolved the powers of the government to the local level, reducing significantly the government powers. The role of the government in the state was relegated and taxes significantly reduced (http://ww.amarillo.com/stories/090907/opi-8331588.sthml).
The state has grown in population and the economy is favorable, with the weak institutions as stipulated in the constitution, the government is finding it extremely hard to carry out its activities effectively. There has been a sense of protracted efforts in the past to completely overhaul the constitution but they have not borne any fruits. What has been achieved is only a number of piecemeal amendments. The need to change the constitution emanates from the belief that the government has very few powers within which to carry out its duties, the emotional writing of the current constitution saw it lose vital powers that are needed especially in today’s environment (George Alan Tarr, 43).
To date, it has seen over 409 amendments in the bid to make it more adaptive to situational changes. The piecemeal amendments have become the in thing every year with the citizens having to take to the polls to vote on some minor issues, as the legislations require. In 2003 for example, citizens had to vote on whether to give public universities retiree’s compensation, for any services they may have provided. Another proposition that was passed was the one that sought to put a limit to the amount of money or damages given in a civil lawsuit. What has been happening in these propositions is that special interest groups that have a direct stake in the proposition invest millions of dollars in the effort to influence the vote through advertisements. For example in the lawsuit proposition, doctors placed advertisements all over urging the citizens to ‘save doctors’.
In addition to the weaknesses aforementioned, the Texas constitution in its current state has been widely criticized for being behind the inefficiencies exhibited in most of the public agencies. It has also produced a legislature that is very lowly remunerated and this has given rise to powerful interest groups that influence the action of the legislature. It is these interest groups that stand in the way of a complete overhaul of the constitution. Theoretically, the Texas constitution slashed the powers of the executives devolving them to the local councils; practically, however, these powers lie in the hands of the strategically placed in the community (Harvard Law Review, 444).
The constitution has been said to be cumbersome due to its wordiness. It also lacks the necessary flexibility. The intensity of the amendments done is a sign that it is in dire need of rewriting especially as calls that were there in the 1970s for it to be amended went on unheeded. The state is divided almost by half, between those that want to see the constitution amended and those who are comfortable with the way it is. Some claim that overhauling the current constitution is not necessary, amendments are the way to go to correct the past wrongs contained in the constitution.
There is another reason why those opposing the overhaul of the constitution may succeed. Most people in Texas are politically inactive. Most don’t participate in the political process and will rarely vote. As most opinion leaders admit, every time there is an election, only one person out of ten votes. A vote hence to rewrite the constitution will not reflect the verdict of majority Texans but rather of the interest groups. Compared to the United States, the Texas constitution has seen numerous amendments more than any state in America (John E. B., Janice C M., 36).
Experts in constitutions attribute these amendments to the unequal distribution of powers. The United States constitution grants power equally to the executive, legislative, and the courts. In Texas majority of these powers are vested in people, this a times can be detrimental due to the fact that the opinion of the public can be swayed by emotional events and advertisements more than by logic. This is done at the expense of the administration. The United States Constitution allows the legislature to pass laws for the nation.
There is a high likelihood that should the constitution be rewritten, voters will not ratify it. This is not an opinion based on the mere fact that it is easy to oppose a proposition especially when it lies in the public’s court, but rather this opinion emanates from the look at the apathy that continues to characterize Texas politics. The interest groups that exist and those high in the socio-economic class do not want to let go of the powers to make decisions. The citizens too will not come out in numbers to support what experts say is a change that has taken too long to materialize. Many in Texas remain ignorant of the political events that go around the state and will rarely come out to vote.
It is apparent that the Texas constitution needs to be written afresh. It has become too detailed and rigid such that it does not adapt adequately to the demographic changes within and without Texas. It was written at a time when the publics’ emotions were turned against the governor and the public wanted the powers of the executives devolved to the local governments. However, this largely anticipated change might not bear fruits due to the conflicting interest groups that continue to enjoy the status quo coupled with Texas voter’s apathy.
Edward M. Walters. Finding anything about everything in Texas. 100 credible broke and 100 reliable. 2005; 22.
George Alan Tarr. Understanding State Constitutions. Princeton University Press, 1998; 43.
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John Kanelis. Texas Constitution is a big problem. Web.
John Elber Bebout, Janice C May. The Texas constitution: Problems and Prospects for Revision. Institute of Urban Studies, University of Texas at Arlington, 1971; 36.
Harvard Law Review. Harvard Law Review Association, Harvard Law School.1919; 444.