Numerous attempts have been made to revise the Texas Constitution, but each has failed. In 1972 a constitutional amendment paved the way for the subsequent legislature to convene itself as a constitutional convention, which became known as the Con-Con. That amendment also created a commission to study constitutional revision. The commission issued a detailed study of the constitution and proposed recommendations for reform. Those efforts failed when the “cockroaches,” those who opposed any changes to the constitution, and the “revisionists,” those who would only accept a total revision of the constitution, blocked efforts to send a partially revised constitution to the voters.
Following the 1975 legislature, sweeping constitutional revision, in the form of numerous constitutional amendments, was placed before the voters for approval – annual legislative sessions, a streamlined judicial system, modernized county government, a more powerful governor limited to two terms in office; but voters roundly rejected the proposals. Sweeping reform along similar lines was initiated again in 1993 by Senator John Montford, to no avail, and then again in 1999 by Senator Bill Ratliff and Representative Rob Junell. The Ratliff-Junell proposal included lengthening the legislative term, shrinking the number of elected officials in the executive branch, and reducing the overall length of the existing constitution. But their proposal never made it to a vote of the legislature, let alone to a popular vote for citizens’ approval.
Critics believe the Texas Constitution needs reform in order to provide a more efficient state government. Yet all attempts at fundamental constitutional revision by the state legislature have failed. Is the Texas Constitution “dysfunctional” or does it still work?
Allan Saxe, Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Texas at Arlington
Sen. Judith Zaffirini, Texas 21st Senatorial District, Laredo, TX
Jessica Lavariega Monforti, Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of Texas - Pan American
Jim Hightower, Populist & Political Commentator, Texas Agricultural Commissioner (1982-1991)