Checks and balances refer to the regulation of the exercise of power among the arms of government such that no arm of government abuses the exercise of its authority without remedy for the likely harm done. The remedy for the excesses of one arm of government lies in the two remaining arms. Checks and balances can be seen to be operating when the judiciary decides on the validity of a law created by the legislature. Additionally, the vetoing of a bill from the legislature by a governor due to a defect demonstrates the operation of checks and balances. Checks and balances can also be demonstrated through the commencement of the process of removing a judicial officer from office by the parliament due to misconduct. This essay focuses on the Texas government with a view to demonstrating how the separation of powers and checks and balances works using specific examples from the three arms of government: the executive, legislature, and the judiciary.
The executive checking the exercise of legislative authority can be deduced in the exercise of veto power. A governor can exercise this power when he feels that the resulting law could be unconstitutional or harmful in any way or if the law making process was flawed. Current Texas Governor Abbot for House Bill 4103 in June 2015. The Bill sought to exclude municipal judges from retaking the oath of office for the second term as demanded by the constitution of Texas . Signing this Bill into law would have been unconstitutional hence the use of veto power was used to provide a check and balance against the wrongful exercise of legislative authority. The Senate can amend the bill or vote for it by a two-thirds majority. It was not done.
The legislature can also check the executive and judiciary for misuse of power. This happens via impeachment through a process instigated in the House of Representatives pursuant to Article 15 of the Texas Constitution section 1 and 2. In 1917, Governor James Ferguson was removed from office by the Senate because he refused to approve appropriations for University of Texas because his wish to have some faculty members he disliked sacked was not fulfilled. This was interpreted as an abuse of office and misapplication of funds of public use. In this example, it is interesting that a member of the executive is removed from office for a wrongful exercise of powers ostensibly for check and balance purposes.
Lastly, the judiciary has the onus of interpreting laws made by the legislature and can overturn inappropriate laws. The reasons can be injustice, non-conformity with the Constitution or even public policy among others. An example lies in the violation of the Texas Constitution Section 1 Article VII that provides for the provision of affordable education to children in Texas. The legislature had gone against this provision by the amendment of the Finance System that made education expensive to many pupils due to the violation of state bars to ad valorem tax. The District Court that was hearing the matter ordered the Legislature to correct the laws so that all children had equal opportunities for education. The decision was not appealed .
The above discussion on checks and balances clearly indicates how power is balanced in Texas. The three examples outlined in this paper are just a few examples among many. However, they authoritatively indicate how effective the system of checks and balances in ensuring that powers granted to any arm of the government are not misused to cause violation of constitutional rights or to result in injustice to the people is.
MALDEF. (2013, February 4). Travis County District Court Declares Current Texas School Finance System Unconstitutional--Again. Texas, Texas.
Office of the Governor of Texas. (2015, June 20). Governor Abbott Vetoes House Bill 4103. Retrieved from Texas Government: http://gov.texas.gov/news/veto/21101
Texas State Historical Association. (2012). The Handbook of Texas Online: James Edward Ferguson. Texas: Texas State Historical Association.