Chapter Study Outline

The Governor

1. Texas governors do not have much power, but historically they have had larger-than-life personalities. The Texas governor is probably the most visible state official and is among the highest-paid governors in the nation. The governor, however, is ranked next to last when it comes to executive powers.

2. The candidates for governor must be at least 30 years of age and a U.S. citizen, and they must have lived in the state for the five years that precede the election.

3. Texas governors have traditionally been white, Protestant, wealthy, conservative, middle-aged males who have significant political experience.

4. Texas has elected two women to the governor’s office: Miriam Ferguson and Ann Richards.

5. William Clements became the first Republican to be elected since Reconstruction, and George W. Bush became the first two-term Republican governor since Reconstruction.

6. In 1974, the governor’s term was increased from two to four years; most governors are elected to serve a maximum of two terms. Rick Perry, who has served as governor since 2000, has been the longest-serving Texas governor.

7. Gubernatorial elections are held in off-year elections to minimize the impact of the presidential election on the governor’s race.

8. Campaigns for governor last at least ten months, starting in January of the election year and continuing until the November election.

9. Because of the state’s expanse, candidates must have access to enormous wealth to reach voters. A campaign for the governor’s office can cost tens of millions of dollars, largely due to the cost of print and broadcast advertising, travel, polling, and mailings.

10. The governor may be impeached and convicted, but the Texas Constitution is silent on the grounds for removal. James Ferguson is the only governor ever to be impeached, convicted, and removed from office.

11. The lieutenant governor becomes governor if the governor is unable to serve due to death, resignation, impeachment and conviction, or the governor’s absence from the state.

12. The line of succession, in ascending order, includes the president pro tempore of the Texas Senate, Speaker of the House, attorney general, and the chief judges of the Texas Courts of Appeal.

13. The governor is paid $150,000 annually and is given use of an official mansion, a limousine, and a state-owned aircraft.

14. The governor has a staff of nearly 250 individuals to assist in carrying out the duties of the office. This staff includes a chief of staff, a deputy chief of staff, a general counsel, and a press secretary.

15. The power of appointment enables the governor to exercise patronage, which permits the governor to reward supporters with official appointments.

16. The governor has executive power of appointment (which is limited by the plural executive and senatorial courtesy), budgetary power to create the executive budget (which is limited by the Legislative Budget Board and its loyalty to the legislative budget), military power over the state’s National Guard units, and police power, primarily over the Department of Public Safety.

17. The governor has the following legislative powers: message power, veto power (including the line-item veto and post-adjournment veto), and the power to call and set the agenda for special sessions.

18. The governor has the following judicial powers: the power to appoint judges to fill vacancies until the next election and limited powers of clemency.

The Plural Executive

1. Texans elect six of the seven people who make up the plural executive: the governor, the lieutenant governor, the attorney general, the land commissioner, the commissioner of agriculture, the comptroller, and the commissioner of the General Land Office. The governor appoints the seventh person, the secretary of state.

2. Two major regulatory agencies, the Railroad Commission and the State Board of Education, are run by officials who are also independently elected.

3. Elections are partisan, and each member of the plural executive may choose to operate independently of the others. At times, members of the plural executive may be in competition with each other, often due to conflicting personal ambitions.

4. The plural executive limits the power of executive officials and makes these officers more accountable to the public, but it can be inefficient at times.

5. The legislature may impeach, convict, and remove from office any official for criminal activity or gross malfeasance in office.

Boards, Commissions, and Regulatory Agencies

1. The state bureaucracy consists of approximately 200 state boards and commissions, as well as major agencies within the plural executive.

2. The heads of most boards and commissions are -appointed by the governor and -confirmed by the Senate.

3. Due to Governor Perry’s extensive time in office, he has gleaned power from his unprecedented amount of bureaucratic appointments.

4. Appointed boards and commissions include the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, Department of Parks and Wildlife, Texas Department of Corrections, and Texas Youth Commission.

5. The Public Utilities Commission (PUC), a multimember appointed commission, sets telephone and electricity rates.

6. The Department of Insurance, which is run by a single-member appointment, regulates the state’s insurance market, a complex and important task.

7. The Texas Railroad Commission has three members, who are elected to six-year terms. Once a powerful entity that oversaw the oil industry and intrastate transportation, much of the RRC’s authority has either waned or been transferred to the Texas Department of Transportation.

8. The State Board of Education has a fifteen-member board, each of whose members is elected to a four-year term. The SBOE sets policy for public education (pre-kindergarten to twelfth grade), including controversial curriculum issues like evolution and other textbook content.

9. The legislature has budgetary authority over the state bureaucracy, as the legislature as control over its biennial funding.

10. The Sunset Advisory Commission requires agencies to undergo periodic review and justify their continued existence, a process that lasts almost two years.

11. After a thorough study of an agency, the Sunset Advisory Commission recommends one of three actions to the legislature: (1) the agency continues as is; (2) the agency continues but with changes (reorganization, a new agency focus, or merger with other agencies); or (3) the agency is abolished.

Conclusion: Democracy and the Executive in Texas

1. Compared with that of the president, the power of the Texas governor is seriously circumscribed by the plural executive.

2. Because power and authority are divided among a number of distinct officers, no one individual is fully responsible for the state’s executive initiatives.

3. The plural executive also creates a powerful executive officer (the lieutenant governor) in the state legislature, outside the office of the governor.

4. The state’s dispersal of power allows interest groups more opportunities to influence government and public policy.