From the Annals of the Governing Documents – In 1869, Texas voters approved a new state constitution. The 1869 Constitution was adopted during Reconstruction in compliance with Congressional mandates. The preface of the bill of rights in the new constitution reflected strong sentiment against the previous unpleasantness of secession and the horrors of the Civil War. The Constitution of the United States was declared to be the supreme law. Slavery was outlawed and the equality of all persons before the law was recognized. This was intended to protect the rights of freedmen. The 1869 Constitution was short-lived. As Reconstruction ended, the very racist southern Democrats of the time called for a new constitution which was adopted in 1876 and provided strict limits on governmental powers. That document is still the basis for Texas governance today – even though heavily amended subsequent years.
From the Annals of the Constitution – In 1972, Texas voters passed the Equal Rights Amendment to the Texas Constitution. The Amendment was the end result of a campaign started in 1957 by the Texas Federation of Business and Professional Women. In 1957, the TFBPW sent attorney Hermine D. Tobolowsky to testify for a bill authorizing married women to control property separately from their husbands. When members of the Senate Committee reacted to her testimony with amusement, Tobolowsky determined to shift direction and steer the TFBPW towards a campaign for an equal rights amendment rather than seeking incremental changes in particular statutes. Despite several setbacks including resistance from later-disgraced House Speaker Gus Mutscher, the TFBPW ultimately succeeded in getting the amendment passed by the Legislature and almost 80% of Texas voters approved the amendment. The amendment is remarkably simple in its phrasing but broad in its impact.
Equality under the law shall not be denied or abridged because of sex, race, color, creed, or national origin. This amendment is self-operative.
From the Annals of the People (or at least some of the People) – In 1876, citizens of Texas (and by that Red means white men and some Hispanics) adopted the Constitution of 1876. The vote was 136,606 in favor with 56,652 against. The 1876 Constitution was the sixth such document governing Texas since the declaration of independence from Mexico in 1836. The 1876 Constitution was primarily a reaction in connection with the reassertion of the Democratic Party (again white men) in the wake of Reconstruction. It also incorporates some aspects of law from Spanish and Mexican rule, as well as protection for agriculture and debtors. While calling for equal rights and due process on its face, those guarantees meant little to women and minorities at the time of adoption and for decades afterwards. The 1876 Constitution has been repeatedly amended, but it remains the governing document of Texas to this day.
From the Annals of School Financing – In 1920, voters ratified the Better Schools Amendment to the Constitution of 1876. The amendment removed limits on school district tax rates and was intended to ease the state’s share of school financing. Supporters of the Amendment also hoped it would increase equality in school conditions by enabling each district to improve its facilities. The impact of the amendment was erratic. By 1923, there was a 51 percent increase in overall local taxes for school districts support for public schools. Yet, many school districts refused to increase tax rates and continued to rely on the state as their primary source of financing. The problems caused by the Amendment persist today as the reliance on local property taxes for the majority of public school financing has created great inequity between rich and poor school districts leading the Legislature to enact the very controversial Robin Hood school financing plan.
The Houston Chronicle gets an early jump on the 2017 Legislative session by looking at proposed GOP legislation that would legalize discrimination against gay Texans based on one’s religious beliefs.
Get ready for another round in Texas, too. For state Rep. Matt Krause, a Fort Worth Republican, the fight here extends to legislation next session that would “supplement the state’s existing law to allow business owners to refuse services to people whose lifestyles clash with their religious beliefs,” as reported by the Austin American-Statesman’s Tim Eaton.
Except Krause isn’t only after a law, which would require simple majorities in both chambers and Gov. Greg Abbott’s approval. He wants to send the question to voters as a proposed constitutional amendment — the first time they will vote on something remotely related to gay rights since 2005. Krause has to clear a high bar first, though. He needs to win the support of two-thirds of the House and Senate to get it on the ballot. Still, the issue is that important to him, Krause told Eaton.
“I wanted to put it in the constitution to make it even stronger,” he said. “It is still something I think is very important.”
Should Krause get the election he desires, it will create some crucial challenges and opportunities all around that may well define the political contours of this fight in Texas for years to come.
Red supports the proposed amendment. Red is anxious to discriminate against numerous of his fellow citizens who have raised Red’s holy ire. Red’s religious beliefs will prohibit him from providing services to left-handed owners of dogs that weigh more than 50 lbs (the dogs that is), drivers who fail to follow the “every other car” rule, anyone who claims soccer is boring, stockbrokers, people who fart in elevators just before exiting, Rep. John Culberson, Dallas Cowboys fans, lake trash, Bluetooth cell phone users, anyone appearing on a “Best Dressed” list, several of Red’s in-laws and a few cousins, Aquarians, ethnic Albanians, and high-school science teachers. There are probably a few more, but this is a good start.
From the Annals of Reconstruction – In 1870, President Ulysses S. Grant signed the Act to readmit Texas to Congressional representation. The Act followed Texas new constitution and election of a state government and most importantly, Texas’ ratification of the 14th and 15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Texas was readmitted upon the following fundamental conditions:
First. That the constitution of Texas shall never be so amended or changed as to deprive any citizen or class of citizens of the United States of the right to vote who are entitled to vote by the constitution herein recognized, except as punishment for such crimes as are now felonies at common law, whereof they shall have been duly convicted under laws equally applicable to all the inhabitants of said State: Provided, That any alteration of said constitution, prospective in its effects, may be made in regard to the time and place of residence of voters.
Second. That it shall never be lawful for the said State to deprive any citizen of the United States on account of his race, color, or previous condition of servitude, of the right to hold office under the constitution and laws of said State, or upon any such ground to require of him any other qualifications for office than such as are required of all other citizens.
Third. That the constitution of Texas shall never be so amended or changed as to deprive any citizen or class of citizens of the United States of the school rights and privileges secured by the constitution of said State.
One could argue that all three conditions were violated – at least in spirit – by Texas for decades.
As loyal readers know, Red is fairly passionate about exercising the right to vote and strongly believes that democracy is the best of the many bad options for selecting leaders. But then we come to the Texas Constitution, which for vague and somewhat mysterious reasons has to be amended every year to deal with matters that seem – well, somehow less than worthy of constitutional consideration. To make matters worse, these matters are put to the public based on ballot language that is frequently misleading and certainly uninformative at best. The ballot language is typically written in such an innocuous manner that voters would authorize a constitutional amendment legalizing the white slave trade. Red was going to walk you through the mess that are the 7 constitutional amendments up for vote this year, but his good friend Joe Kulhavy at the Texas Election Law Blog has beat him to the punch and done a much better job of it than Red could have managed. Only Joe could make reading about these matters at least somewhat entertaining, so all Red will do is give you his up or down.
- Prop. 1 – Throttles back property tax revenue for school districts by adding another $10,000 to the homestead exemption.
- Red votes No. Red would use the extra $200 or so to restock the liquor cabinet, but the schools need it more
- Prop. 2 – Exempts a handful of surviving spouses of disabled vets from homestead taxes
- Red votes Yes. No real harm here as this effects a handful of folks.
- Prop. 3 – Releases statewide elected officials from their historical requirement to reside in Austin, despite the fact that their jobs happen to be located in the capitol.
- Red votes Yes. Most of them don’t deserve to live in Austin anyway.
- Prop. 4 – Would authorize professional sports team charitable foundations to conduct charitable raffles.
- Red votes No. This just authorizes another way for largely bogus charities to fleece us.
- Prop. 5 – Would adjust the population cap that prohibits all but the tiniest of counties from using county road crews to build and maintain private roads, so as to ensure that slightly-less tiny counties will be able to use county road crews to build and maintain private roads.
- Red votes No. Red always thought a private road meant just that – it’s private. Red can’t imagine a reason to expend more public funds in this way.
- Prop. 6 – Would specify that Texans have a fundamental constitutional right to hunt, kill and harvest wildlife and fish, including by “traditional means.”
- Red votes No. Totally unnecessary and likely to only result in absurd litigation.
- Prop. 7 – Would redirect roughly 10% or more of the state’s annual tax revenue exclusively to transportation projects.
- Red is torn up about this one. Texas roads are falling apart, but the idea of requiring money to be spent on any particular area troubles him. Red votes No.