Did you know that our legislature only meets every other year, for less than five months, to enact legislative solutions for the ninth largest economy in the world?
After Reconstruction in the late 1860s and early 1870s, most Texans loathed government and sought as little government intrusion in their lives as possible. An old rumor was that the delegates to the 1875 Constitutional Convention were so fed up with governmental overreach, they wanted the Legislature to only meet for two days every 140 years…instead they settled for 140 days every two years.
The State of Texas is governed under our seventh constitution, the Texas Constitution of 1876. The previous six constitutions (the 1827 Constitution of the State of Coahuila and Tejas; the 1836 Constitution of the Republic of Texas; and Texas State Constitutions of 1845, 1861, 1866, and 1869) and the United States Constitution, each influenced the document we abide by today. The Constitutions of 1866 and 1869, Reconstruction era documents, affected the delegates’ crafting the Constitution of 1876.
When Reconstruction ceased, Texans never forgot what a one-party government could do with unlimited power. They sought to write a constitution that limited the power of the central state government, ensured elected officials were responsible to the people, and protected the state from any type of authoritarian regime. The delegates at the 1875 Constitutional Convention had little faith in government and their new document clearly exhibited this concern.
As a legislator, it is clear what the Texas Constitution expects of me. Two political ideals stand out: religious freedom and limitations on the centralized state.
The Bill of Rights identifies man’s natural rights, including religious freedoms. Not only can the State not step on these rights, but it also “shall be the duty of the Legislature to pass such laws as may be necessary to protect equally every religious denomination in the peaceable enjoyment of its own mode of public worship,” (Article 1. Section 6). Furthermore, “No money shall be appropriated, or drawn from the Treasury for the benefit of any sect, or religious society, theological or religious seminary; nor shall property belonging to the State be appropriated for any such purposes,” (Article 1. Section 7).
Early Texans lived during the times when Mexico required settlers in the colonies to pledge loyalty to a single religion, a rule largely ignored by Texans, but nonetheless a restriction imposed. Consequently, the writers of the Texas Constitution intended for religious sects or institutions to function without the meddling of the state. These sections will be important to remember when the school voucher discussion ultimately comes up this Legislative session. The Constitution is clear, we cannot give state funds to private religious schools. And we should not use state monies to fund private schools or home schools, because mandates from the state would likely follow, like STAAR testing. That situation would make our forefathers turn over in their graves.
Our constitution limits the power of government more so than most other states. Voters ratified the 1876 Constitution because it ensured the right of local self-government and a Constitutional Republic form of government. Just this past January, when an unsuccessful Speaker of the House candidate proposed a rule stating, “The speaker shall not designate as chair of the committee a member who resides in a county with a population greater than two million according to the most recent decennial census,” this seemed to be a complete disregard for our sacred constitution. Imagine if a member from an urban area imposed a similar restriction on members from rural or suburban areas. The proposed rule reeked of anti-republicanism. As a conservative, there is an expectation to uphold the Constitution, not trample on it. Thankfully, 144 of my colleagues voted this amendment down, standing up for the Republic our founders fought so hard to establish.
Throughout the 88th Legislative session, I will always strive to stand by the Texas Constitution. My oath of office demands I support both the United States and Texas Constitutions. There is a faction of my own party that wants to use our majority membership as an excuse to oust other legislators from the discussion table. They want to make the Capitol their own partisan headquarters, but that is not consistent with Constitutional Conservativism. Article 1 Section 2 states, “All political power is inherent in the people, and all free governments are founded on their authority, and instituted for their benefit.”
In the last (87th) legislative session, I was proud to serve in the Texas House under the leadership of Speaker Dade Phelan when we had the most conservative session in Texas history. The 88th session should follow suit, including delivering the largest tax cut in Texas history. The framers of the Texas Constitution of 1876 would be proud.
Glenn Rogers represents Texas House District 60, which includes Parker County.
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