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The Executive Branch of Texas Government. Historical Perspective. Office of governor is institutionally weak Governor has no authority to form cabinet as President does Governor does appoint members of commissions and boards

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historical perspective
Historical Perspective
  • Office of governor is institutionally weak
  • Governor has no authority to form cabinet as President does
  • Governor does appoint members of commissions and boards
  • 1876 Constitution retained the plural executive structure which has independently elected officeholders
historical perspective3
Historical Perspective
  • Governor appoints Secretary of State, only statewide appointed officeholder
  • Some restrictions have been loosened, but changes have not significantly enhanced authority of governor
  • Amendments have been passed:
    • to allow Legislature to set governor’s salary
    • increasing term from two to four years
    • to allow removal (with Senate approval) of persons from board or commissions whom the governor has appointed
structure of plural executive
Structure of Plural Executive
  • Article 4, Section 1 of 1876 Constitution created executive branch, including:
    • Governor (CEO of state)
    • Lieutenant Governor
    • Comptroller of Public Accounts
    • Treasurer (no longer in existence)
    • Land Commissioner
    • Attorney General
structure of plural executive5
Structure of Plural Executive
  • Later additions were:
    • Railroad Commission
    • State Board of Education
  • All are elected statewide, except Board of Education (elected in districts)
  • The agencies of these officials are autonomous, independent of the governor
structure of plural executive6
Structure of Plural Executive
  • Some argue that plural executive’s effect on governor’s control is minimal because of little history of significant conflict
  • Others argue that governor never pursues controversial policies in order to “get along”
  • Our governor’s position is consistently ranked as “weak”
qualifications for governor
Qualifications for Governor
  • Thirty years old
  • U.S. citizen
  • Texas resident for at least five years
  • Mostly well-educated, middle-aged and white male
  • Only two women elected
  • Increased importance on personal wealth or ability to raise funds
  • Previous public service provides base for electoral support
removal from office
Removal from Office
  • Impeachment
    • Initiated in the House
    • Tried by the Senate
  • On death or incapacity, Lt. Governor replaces until next election
  • Lt. Governor also acts if Governor is outside the state
  • Salary is $115,345.00 per year
  • Mansion provided with staff
  • Security detail
  • Travel expenses
  • Access to state-owned planes and cars
governor s powers
Governor’s Powers
  • Powers have ebbed and flowed over the years
  • Constitution of 1845 modeled powers on those of the Presidency
  • Successive constitutions reduced the powers of the office
legislative powers
Legislative Powers
  • Outlines legislative priorities in the State of the State address
  • Communication with lawmakers continues throughout session
  • “Bully pulpit” permits mobilization of public support
  • Veto threat (especially line item) can influence legislators’ decisions
legislative powers13
Legislative Powers
  • Ability to call special session is powerful, but it can backfire if legislature fails to act or liberally interprets subject matter of the call
  • Governor’s proclamation calling a special session must be carefully drafted - once called, Governor can increase agenda items
legislative powers14
Legislative Powers
  • Veto
    • Texas has strong veto power
    • During the session, governor has ten days to veto a bill – if not, it becomes law
    • Legislature can override with 2/3 vote
    • After adjournment, governor has 20 days to veto
    • Line–item veto is very powerful, but legislature has attempted to get around it through “lump sum” appropriations
budgetary powers
Budgetary Powers
  • Weaker than most states
  • LBB and governor both make recommendations, but Legislature usually follows LBB
  • Governor can propose transfer of funds during interims, with approval of LBB
appointive powers
Appointive Powers
  • Appoints members to over 200 boards and commissions (with Senate confirmation)
  • Most board members serve staggered six-year terms
  • Governor can only remove his or her appointees (with Senate approval)
appointive powers17
Appointive Powers
  • Senatorial courtesy permits a senator to block appointment of someone who lives in that senator’s district
  • Usually avoided by clearing nominees with senators
  • Governor has an Appointments Secretary, who screens nominees for availability, competence, acceptability and support by key groups
appointive powers18
Appointive Powers
  • All vacancies at district court level and above are appointed subject to Senate confirmation
  • Any vacancy in U.S. Senate results in governor appointing replacement
  • Governor can also appoint successor to any statewide officer other than Lt. Governor
judicial powers
Judicial Powers
  • Eighteen member Board of Pardons and Paroles decides release dates for prisoners, and can recommend pardons
  • Governor can grant executive clemency
    • 30-day stay of execution (one time only)
    • Full pardon, conditional pardon or commutation of death sentence (only with approval of Board of Pardons and Paroles)
military powers
Military Powers
  • Serves as “Commander-in-Chief” of militia, except during wartime
  • Can call out National Guard during times of riot or other emergency
informal resources
Informal Resources
  • Staff
    • Staff is around 200, with some making more than the governor
    • Staff will ideally enhance the governor’s political, administrative and policy-making capabilities
    • Chosen on abilities and loyalty
    • Control access to and information for the governor
informal resources22
Informal Resources
  • Media
    • Good working relationship can help promote agenda
  • Political Party
    • Growing two-party system permits work with legislature
  • Interest Groups
    • Groups can be of help in elections and can influence legislators
recent governors
Recent Governors
  • Bill Clements
    • First Republican since Reconstruction
    • Appointed many conservative Democrats to boards and commissions
    • Appointed first women and African-American to highest courts
    • Was a public relations disaster
    • Was successful in helping Republican party become majority
recent governors24
Recent Governors
  • Mark White
    • Very good with media
    • Confrontational style lost teacher pay raise
    • HB 72 (Perot Commission) provided some pay raise but required teacher “literacy test” (as well as “no pass, no play”)
    • Not much legislative leadership
recent governors25
Recent Governors
  • Ann Richards
    • Activist
    • Lobbied for state lottery, promising that it would be used for education
    • Little input in legislative matters
    • Despite high approval ratings, she didn’t get involved in the 1993 session, except to kill a concealed carry bill
recent governors26
Recent Governors
  • George W. Bush
    • Low key style (underestimate him!)
    • Excellent relations with lawmakers
    • Won all four legislative priorities in 1995
    • Failed to win substantial property tax relief
    • Won over 70 percent of vote for second term
recent governors27
Rick Perry

First Aggie

Highly criticized “absence” from the legislative process during 2001 session

Highly controversial vetoes of bills

Physician reimbursement


Judicial pay raises

Recent Governors
lieutenant governor
David Dewhurst

Primarily legislative office, but powerful because of role and statewide constituency

Chairs LBB

Presiding officer of the Senate

Lieutenant Governor
attorney general
Greg Abbott

Chief legal officer, defending state laws and regulatory orders

Enforces anti-trust and child support laws

Primarily civil, with little criminal responsibility

Advisory opinions to state and local entities

Attorney General
Carole Keeton Strayhorn

Primary tax administrator, accounting officer and revenue estimator

Budget can’t become law without certification that it falls within revenue estimates

land commissioner
Jerry Patterson

Manages state owned lands, including mineral rights

Administers Veterans Land Board program

Land Commissioner
agriculture commissioner
Susan Combs

Created by statute

Carries out laws regulating and benefiting agriculture

Responsible for administration of consumer protection laws in areas of weights and measures, packaging and labeling, and marketing

Agriculture Commissioner
secretary of state
Roger Williams

Appointed by governor

Primary function is to administer state election laws

Also handles corporate charters and processes extraditions

Secretary of State
state treasurer
State Treasurer
  • Created in 1876 Constitution as custodian of state funds
  • Abolished in 1995
  • Duties transferred to Comptroller
elected boards and commissions
Elected Boards and Commissions
  • Railroad Commission
    • Originally designed to regulate intrastate operations of railroads and trucking
    • Federal government undertook that work
    • Three-member commission now regulates oil and gas production and lignite mining
  • State Board of Education
    • Fifteen member elected board helps oversee public education system