The State of Texas has had several constitutions through its history. It has kept, however, many of its original provisions, even some that would conflict with our national Constitution. It is considered to be a long and poorly organized document, where responsibilities are not clearly defined and that is difficult to interpret. It is also very restrictive and has many unenforceable provisions known as deadwood.
The Texas Constitution includes features that are very similar of those found in the national Constitution. The powers are separated in executive, legislative and judiciary branches, and there are provisions that limit the government or protect citizens against arbitrary government action.
The Texas Constitution shares many of the principles included in the U.S. document. For example it organizes and limits the government, establishes the principle of equality under the law, guarantees personal and political freedom, establishes the separation of church and state, and the freedom of speech and press. However they are very different in some other aspects. For example, The Texas Constitution is more rigid and more prone to be amended, it does not give the governor as much strength as the U.S. Constitution gives to the president, and the judiciary system is more complex and confusing.
Key features in each branch of the government are best shown with specific examples. The Texas Constitution focuses on actions that the legislative power cannot make, and it is so restrictive that it often forces the government to resort to constitutional amendments in order to allow the legislative process to happen. In Texas, the executive power is fragmented, meaning that the governor is a very weak figure that has to deal with other five different and independent individuals that are elected statewide, reducing the power of the governor. On the judiciary branch, one of the key differences is that judges are not appointed by the executive, they are elected. This makes popularity more relevant than competence when having to elect new judges.
The process of making constitutional amendments is a relatively easy one in Texas. The proposal can be initiated during regular or special sessions of the legislature. It must be voted by two thirds of legislators in both chambers. Then, if passed, the date of the election is specified by the legislature, and three months before the election it must be published once a week for four weeks in newspapers in each county. If a simple majority is achieved the amendment is ratified, and the governor must officially proclaim the results.
Given the lack of flexibility of the Texas Constitution and the need to modernize it, many attempts have been made to amend it. Most notably were those during the decade of 1970. From 1971 to 1974 there was a great effort to modify the Constitution. It was relevant because it resolved that the legislature had the power to become a constitutional convention, even though its proposal was defeated in the end because of two red herring provisions included by rivals of reform that caused certain sectors to oppose the amendment. The effort continued with a new legislature in 1975, and the new drafts were influenced by those suggested in 1973. Major changes included annual sessions, streamlined judiciary system and more power to the governor, though limiting his terms to two. This proposal was ultimately defeated by voters who apparently feared more government spending and power.
In the light of these facts, it seems certainly better to have a constitution that is broad and flexible, because no set of laws can predict what changes will be needed in the future. The broader the constitution is, the less need for reform it will have.
Kraemer, Richard, Charldean Newell and David Prindle. Texas Politics. Belmont: Thomson Learning, 2012.