Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Should EVERYTHING Be Bigger in Texas?

Our state constitution is one of the longest and most confusing constitutions in the country. Because it is so poorly written and organized, it is constantly having to be amended and added to. How can this document truly manage our government when it is so hard to follow? With our changing times we also need a changing, updated constitution.

The Texas Constitution has not truly been re-written since the late 1800s. It's over one hundred years later and we are still following a regime of something that was barely enough for the government to get by on then. This Constitution was quickly rewritten and only amended after that. Since then, our constitution has become one of the most amended and longest constitutions in the country. It is scattered and unorganized and deals with topics that should be handled by counties and cities, such who certain land belongs to or what it can be used for. People complain about our state being behind in education and women's rights or having so many uninsured children and families. I believe the first step to a better government and state and therefore the first step towards fixing a lot of our biggest problems, is a more organized government. Legislatures need to understand exactly what their role is and what they are in charge or managing instead of being given a broad spectrum or things. This way, they can better understand who they are helping and why. All this begins with a new constitution for the state of Texas.

I know that a convention to re-write a state's constitution is more than rare in this day and age, however I see it as a fresh start and a step in the right direction for our state. With a new constitution, the writers can concentrate on what's important and what tasks need to be delegated out to smaller governments within the state. By condensing our constitution, we would focus our government in the direction we want to move in, instead of being stuck on where our government was several decades ago. The answer to the poorly organized structure of the document is not to keep amending it and making changes, this does not make it easier to understand. Instead, it makes it more complex and confusing for everyone.

I also realize that a Constitutional Convention is tedious and time consuming, however the time is well worth our while to spend focused on such an integral part of our state. The last attempt at rewriting our constitution was very unsuccessful. It turned into legislatures looking out for their own good and pushing alternative ideas not pertaining to the topics. This resulted in several (more) amendments instead of the outcome that was hoped for. We need to invest interest into our state and its future and find people who are capable of writing such a document that also really care. Texas is one of, if not the, most recognizeable states in this country. The phrases, "Don't mess with Texas" and "Everything's Bigger in Texas" are popular across the entire country. This state has more pride than any other state also. You don't see many people from Missouri walking around with the shape of their state tattooed on their body or wearing jewelry in the shape of their state? However, the Texas government does a poor job living up to this standard. We are poorly ranked in many categories compared to other states and our legislature only regularly meets every other year to solve these problems. For a such a big state with such high standards, the constitution doesn't do such a 'big' job.


LyraZ said...

Hi Beth. I appreciate your feedback on my critique of the Texas Judiciary system. I am glad that you brought up the need for constitutional revision in your own review. This is also connected to the problems with the judicial branch, and a topic of interest to me as well.
I agree that the attempts at piecemeal revision - using amendments to add or delete items - have not been potent enough to remedy our current constitutions many flaws. Because it was written as a reaction to the abuses of power by the Davis administration, I think it went to the other end of the extreme and crippled our government from functioning efficiently.
As you mentioned, what is really needed is comprehensive revision - a total overhaul, i.e a new constitution. But yes, this seems to be a frustratingly impossible solution for our legislators to accomplish. To add to your list of Texas colloquialisms, there is the saying "If it ain't broke, don't fix it!" But to me this seems to be the case of "We know it's broke, but won't fix it!"
It's amazing to me that we are one of the largest states in the country, with an exploding population and increasing urbanization, and yet our government hobbles along relying on an old-fashioned 'mortar and pestle' type constitution that is completely disorganized, even with overlapping sections.
I think its going to take more public awareness and outcry to get things moving on this issue. Honestly, before this class I had no idea that our constitution had so many problems, or the effects it had on our government's ability to function.
We as the up and coming generation to power need to increase this awareness among our peers. In this way, I believe we could shake things up and make a difference in our government.

KSeago said...

Excellent post. You've certainly identified one of my major issues with Texas government. We're a modern state governed by an archaic document.