• The Texas Constitution

    The Texas Constitution

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ADA Text Version

Learning Objectives

  1. Define federalism and describe Texas' role in the U.S. federal system.
  2. Identify the main functions of a constitution.
  3. Compare and contrast earlier versions of the Texas Constitution with the current version.
  4. Discuss the historical and ideological origins of Texas’ current constitution.
  5. Explain the basic organization of government under the Texas Constitution, comparing and contrasting its distribution of power with that of the United States Constitution.
  6. Evaluate criticisms of the Texas Constitution and review modern attempts to revise the Texas Constitution. 

The Texas Constitution

The Texas Constitution reflects a remarkable historical link to its 19th century origins. Based on a strong skepticism of big government, it purposely fragments and limits state governmental power. Despite its massive page count and numerous amendments, all attempts to rewrite the Texas Constitution have failed. This video demonstrates how the theme of limited government permeates the Texas Constitution, as it identifies factors that have prevented constitutional reform.

Video Focus Points 

Look for answers to these questions when watching the video:

  • How did the authors of the Texas Constitution create a weak government?
  • Why have attempts to reform The Texas Constitution failed?


Study Questions

Look for answers to these questions throughout the lesson:

  1. Briefly summarize features of the Texas Constitutions of 1836, 1845 and 1861. What major features did they have in common? What were the important differences?
  2. Why did Texas change constitutions three times between 1866 and 1876?
  3. Describe how the Constitution of 1876 addressed certain features of the 1869 Constitution.
  4. What were the major motivations behind the design of the Constitution of 1876? How were the interests of those who wrote it reflected in the document?
  5. How, specifically, does the Constitution of 1876 limit the power of government in each of the three branches?
  6. What does it mean to say that the Texas Constitution is a statutory constitution? What are the consequences of such a constitution?
  7. Compare and contrast the Texas Constitution with its United States counterpart. Putting aside the issue of foreign policy, which government has greater powers?
  8. How does the Texas Constitution limit the taxing and spending powers of state government?
  9. Discuss the importance of Article 7 in the Texas Constitution.
  10. Describe the steps required to amend the Texas Constitution. Give two examples of recent constitutional amendments.
  11. What are referenda and initiatives? Does the Texas Constitution provide for either of these? Name a state that does.
  12. Explain major scholarly criticisms of the Texas Constitution.
  13. The Constitutional Convention of 1974 started with what seemed like a reasonable prospect of success. Why did it fail?
  14. How did the proposed constitutional amendments of 1975 attempt to alter political institutions?
  15. What were the key components of Representative Rob Junell and Senator Bill Ratliff’s 1999 proposed constitutional revision? Do you think the proposal was a good one?
  16. What opportunities, if any, does Texas provide for direct democracy (e.g., referenda, initiatives) by citizens?