Texas Constitution

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Texas Constitution
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The Texas Constitution is the document that describes the structure and function of the government of Texas. The current constitution, which took effect on February 15, 1876, is the state's fifth since Texas became a state. Prior to statehood, Texas had two constitutions, the Coahuila y Tejas and the 1836 Constitution of the Republic of Texas. Once statehood was achieved, Texas adopted a constitution in 1845, 1861, 1866, 1869 and the 1876 version.[1],[2]

Through 2008, the Texas Legislature has approved a total of 632 amendments to the constitution. Of these, 456 have been adopted and 176 have been defeated by Texas voters. Altogether, from 1876-2007, the Texas Constitution has been amended 456 times.[3]

The 1876 Constitution is the one of the longest state constitutions in the United States, and one of the oldest still in effect. It has been amended more than 400 times. Although a somewhat chaotic document, it is not nearly as long and chaotic as the Alabama Constitution, which has been amended almost 800 times despite having been adopted 25 years after Texas' current constitution.

When the 1876 constitution was adopted, it had 289 sections organized into 17 articles. Through 2008, 206 new sections have been added, 66 of the original sections have been deleted, and 49 added sections have also been removed. As a result, the constitution as it stood in 2008 had 380 sections. The next time that changes might be made to the constitution is in November 2009.

Constitutional conventions

Most of these amendments are due to the document's highly restrictive nature. The constitution limits the authority of the State of Texas to those powers explicitly granted to it; there is no state equivalent of the necessary-and-proper clause to facilitate controversial legislation. Because of the unwieldiness of the state constitution, there have been several proposals for a constitutional convention to propose a new constitution. In 1974, the Texas Legislature met in joint session as a convention, but failed to propose a new constitution. In 1975, the Legislature, meeting in regular session, revived much of the work of the 1974 convention and proposed it as a set of eight amendments to the existing constitution. All eight of the amendments were rejected by the voters. There have been several subsequent proposals to revise the constitution, but none of those efforts has been successful. However, several sections (and one entire article) were successfully repealed in 1969.


The preamble to the constitution says, "Humbly invoking the blessings of Almighty God the people of the State of Texas do ordain and establish this Constitution."

Articles of the Constitution

Article 1

See text at Article 1, Texas Constitution

Article One is the Texas Constitution's bill of rights. The article originally contained 29 sections; since 1876, five sections have been added. Most of the article's provisions concern specific fundamental limitations on the power of the state government and certain rights granted to citizens that cannot be ignored under any circumstances.

Many of the rights-related provisions of the federal constitution have counterparts in Article One. Every provision of the first ten amendments to the federal constitution—the United States Bill of Rights—has such a counterpart. Several other provisions from the main body of the federal constitution, such as its prohibitions of ex post facto laws and bills of attainder, also have counterparts. The provisions in the Texas constitution, however, are generally wordier and more particularistic than their federal counterparts.

The provisions of the Texas constitution apply only against the government of Texas. However, a number of the provisions of the federal constitution are held to apply both to the states as well under the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment to the federal constitution. This means that the Texas courts must interpret a duplicated state provision, such as the freedom of speech, at least as broadly as the federal courts do its federal counterpart. The Texas courts may (but are not required to) interpret the state provision more broadly, ruling that it limits government power more than its federal counterpart (Braden, 1972).

Section 4 prohibits office holders from the requirements of any religious test, provided they "acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being." The latter requirement appears to contradict a prohibition on any kind of religious test located in Article 6 of the federal constitution. Since it would almost certainly be struck down by the federal courts if challenged, it is rarely (if ever) enforced.

Section 32 comprises Texas' Defense of marriage amendment, adopted in November 2005.

Article 2

(See text at Article 2, Texas Constitution)

Provides for the separation of the powers of the government.

Article 3

(See text at Article 3, Texas Constitution)

Article 3 vests the legislative power of the state in the "Legislature of the State of Texas", and establishes that the legislature consists of the state Senate and House of Representatives. It also lists the qualifications required of senators and representatives and regulates the details of the legislative process. Finally, the article contains many substantive limitations on the power of the legislature and a large number of exceptions to those limitations. In particular, Section 49 limits the power of the legislature to incur debt, while numerous other sections following Section 49 permit the legislature to issue bonds for specific purposes.

As with the United States Constitution, either house may originate bills (Section 31), but bills to raise revenue must originate in the House of Representatives (Section 33).

In addition, Section 49a requires the Comptroller of Public Accounts to certify the amount of available cash on hand and anticipated revenues for the next biennium; no appropriation may exceed this amount (except in cases of emergency and then only with a 4/5ths vote of both chambers), and the Comptroller is permitted to reject and return to the Legislature any appropriation in violation of this requirement.

Article 4

(See text at Article 4, Texas Constitution)

Describes the powers and duties of the governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, comptroller of public accounts, commissioner of the general land office, and attorney general. With the exception of the secretary of state the above officials are directly elected; the lieutenant governor is elected separately from the governor (not as a team).

Under section 16 of this article, the Lieutenant-Governor automatically assumes the power of Governor if and when the Governor travels outside of the state of Texas, for whatever reason.

Article 5

(See text at Article 5, Texas Constitution)

Describes the composition, powers, and jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, the Court of Criminal Appeals, the Court of Appeals, the District, County, and Commissioners Courts, and the Justice of the Peace Courts. See Texas judicial system for comments regarding the complicated structure of the Texas court system.

Article 6

(See text at Article 6, Texas Constitution)

Denies voting rights to minors, felons, and people who are deemed mentally incompentent by a court (though the Legislature may make exceptions in the latter two cases). Describes rules for elections.

Article 7

(See text at Article 7, Texas Constitution)

Establishes provisions for public schools, asylums, and universities. .". . it shall be DUTY OF THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE to establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools" (Article 7, Texas Constitution). This issue has surfaced in recent lawsuits involving the State's funding of education and restrictions it has placed on local school districts. This Article also discusses the creation and maintenance of the Permanent University Fund and mandates the establishment of a "university of the first class" (the University of Texas) as well as an agricultural and mechanical university (Texas A&M University).

Article 8

(See text at Article 8, Texas Constitution)

Article 8 places various restrictions on the ability of the Legislature and local governments to impose taxes. Most of these restriction concern local property taxes (Section 1-e prohibits statewide property taxes).

Texas does not have a personal income tax. Section 24 of the article, added by an amendment adopted in 1993, restricts the ability of the Legislature to impose such a tax. Under the section, a law imposing a personal income tax must be ratified in a state-wide referendum to take effect; any further change in the tax must also be ratified to take effect, if it would increase the "collective liability" of all persons subject to the tax. The proceeds from the tax must first be used reduce local school property taxes, with any remainder being used for the support of education.

No such restriction exists on imposition of a corporate income tax or similar tax; in May 2006 the Legislature replaced the existing franchise tax with a gross receipts tax.

Article 9

(See text at Article 9, Texas Constitution)

Provides rules for the creation of counties and determining the location of county seats. It also includes several provisions regarding the creation of county-wide hospital districts in specified counties, as well as other miscellaneous provisions regarding airports and mental health.

Article 10

(See text at Article 10, Texas Constitution)

Contains a single section declaring that railroads are considered "public highways" and railroad carriers "common carriers." (This section may not have much force of law, as railroad operations, even those where a railroad physically exists in only one state, are governed by the Surface Transportation Board, a federal agency.) Eight other sections were repealed in 1969.

Article 11

(See text at Article 11, Texas Constitution)

Recognizes counties as legal political subunits of the State, grants certain powers to cities and counties, empowers the legislature to form school districts.

Article 12

(See text at Article 12, Texas Constitution)

Article 12 contains two sections directing the legislature to enact general laws for the creation of private corporations and prohibiting the creation of private corporations by special law. Four other sections were repealed in 1969 and a fifth section in 1993.

Article 13

(See text at Article 13, Texas Constitution)

Established provisions for Spanish and Mexican land titles; this article was repealed in its entirety in 1969.

Article 14

(See text at Article 14, Texas Constitution)

Article 14 contains a single section establishing the General Land Office and the office of commissioner of the General Land Office. Six other sections were repealed in 1969.

Article 15

(See text at Article 15, Texas Constitution)

Describes the process of impeachment and lists grounds on which to impeach judges. The House of Representatives is granted the power of impeachment.

Article 16

(See text at Article 16, Texas Constitution)

Contains miscellaneous provisions, including limits on interest rates, civil penalties for murder, and the punishment for bribery.

Section 15 discusses that Texas is a community property state.

Section 28 prohibits garnishment of wages, except for spousal maintenance and child support payments (however, this does not limit Federal garnishment for items such as student loan payments or income taxes).

Section 37 provides for the constitutional protection of the mechanic's lien.

Although Texas is a right-to-work state, such protections are governed by law; Texas does not have a constitutional protection for right-to-work.

Article 17

(See text at Article 17, Texas Constitution)

Article 17 consists of a single section that prescribes the procedure for amending the constitution. The legislature, by a two-thirds vote of the membership of each house, may propose amendments in either regular or special session. Amendments in a special session must relate to one of the purposes for which the governor has called the session. An amendment becomes part of the constitution when approved by a majority of the persons voting in a statewide election.

According to an opinion of the Attorney General of Texas in 1971, the governor has no role in this process and can neither approve nor veto proposed amendments.

The constitution does not provide for amendment by initiative or any other means of amendment; only the Legislature may propose them.

The section also prescribes specific details for notifying the public of elections to vote on proposed amendments. It requires that the legislature publish a notice in officially approved newspapers that briefly summarizes each amendment and shows how each amendment will be described on the ballot. It also requires that the full text of each amendment be posted at each county courthouse, at least 50 days (but no sooner than 60 days) before the election.

Amending the constitution

See also: Amending state constitutions

As laid out in Article 17, in order for a proposed constitutional amendment to go before the people, the Texas State Legislature must propose the amendment in a joint resolution of both the Texas State Senate and the Texas House of Representatives. The joint resolution can originate in either the House or the Senate. The resolution must be adopted by a vote of at least two-thirds of the membership of each house of the legislature. That amounts to a minimum of 100 votes in the House of Representatives and 21 votes in the Senate.

Amendments may be proposed in either regular or special sessions. Prior to 1972, amendments could only be proposed during regular sessions but in 1972, the state's voters approved an amendment that changed this so that amendments could also be proposed during special legislative sessions. (In 1935 and 1971, voters rejected proposed amendments making that change.)

Joint resolutions endorsing a proposed amendment must include the text of the proposed constitutional amendment and specify an election date. These joint resolutions may include more than one proposed amendment.

If more than one proposition is under consideration on a ballot, the Texas Secretary of State conducts a random drawing to assign each proposition a ballot number.

If voters reject an amendment, the legislature can resubmit it. For example, after Proposition 2 was rejected in August 1991, the legislature re-adopted it and re-submitted it for that year's November ballot, where it was approved as Texas Proposition 13 (1991).

The ballot wording of a proposition is specified in the joint resolution adopted by the Legislature, which has broad discretion in this matter. Texas courts have heard challenges to proposed ballot wording but have generally ruled that "ballot language is sufficient if it describes the proposed amendment with such definiteness and certainty that voters will not be misled." (See Hill v. Evans (1967))[4]

The Legislature may call an election for voter consideration of proposed constitutional amendments on any date, as long as election authorities have sufficient time to provide notice to the voters and print the ballots.

A brief explanatory statement of the nature of each proposed amendment, along with the ballot wording for each amendment, must be published twice in each newspaper in the state that prints official notices. The first notice must be published 50 to 60 days before the election. The second notice must be published on the same day of the subsequent week. The secretary of state must send a complete copy of each amendment to each county clerk, who must post it in the courthouse at least 30 days prior to the election.

The secretary of state drafts the ballot explanation. This must be approved by the Attorney General of Texas.

Constitutional amendments take effect when the official vote canvass confirms statewide majority approval, unless a later date is specified. Statewide election results are tabulated by the secretary of state and must be canvassed by the governor 15 to 30 days following the election.

External links


Wikipedia® has an article on:


Research sources

  • Braden, George (1972). Citizens' guide to the Texas Constitution. Austin: Texas Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations.
  • Hill, John L., ed. (1976). Constitution of the State of Texas. Austin: [Office of the Attorney General of Texas].
    • Includes the text of the constitution as of November 2, 1976, along with a brief informational introduction.
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