.4. ktorrermiw , 8 months and 44,000 words later . . . Austin Sdmetime on Nov. 1, Lt. Gov. Bill Hobby and House Speaker Price Daniel, Jr., will be handed their copies of the proposed new constitution of the State of Texas. \(Other legislators will probably have And the process of writing and approving a new constitution will have entered its second stage. Still to come, of course, is the actual drafting of a proposed document to be submitted to the voters, to be done by both houses assembled \(“Relax?” said one source close to the Constitutional Revision Commission, “There are gonna be 181 idiots looking at it in January and you’re gonna not to mention the actual approval of the thing by voters next November. But the Constitutional Revision Commission, the37 citizens chosen to do the first-drafting, have finished their writing chores. They have produced a sheaf of double-spaced pages entitled, Chairman Calvert appropriately enough, “A New Constitution for Texas”; still to be pored over by the Style and Drafting Committee and by a professor of English, but close enough to what the convention will have to work with to permit a look at what’s in it. To some extent it is what is not in the new draft that makes the document new. About 44,000 words worth, to be specific: the commission’s document is that much shorter than the present 55,000-word \(it Section 23 will be gone if the commission has its way: the Legislature would no longer be specifically empowered to regulate brands. The governor would no 6 The Texas Observer longer have the authority to call out the militia to protect the borders from “Indians and other predatory bands,” nor the power to call the Legislature into session in some place other than the seat of government in the event Austin were taken by “the public enemy” or were the site of a prevalent disease. And so forth. The commission obviously hoped that, along with much of this verbiage, much of the restrictive musty do-nothingness of the Constitution would be removed. The Texas Constitution prohibits just about everything; to do anything, the state has had to pass amendments 212 of them in the last 97 years. The commission, well-intentioned and honorable people that they are, hoped to write instead a general underpinning for future state government. Well, no one would like to fault them for not being the Founding Fathers. Still, there is nothing in the proposed draft to give readers the jolt contained in “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion .. . ” That’s due partly to the different historical situation these were not people with a continent and a nation before them, but revisers who were bound about with other states and revenue sharing and ongoing highway programs and other limiting factors. So what they did for the most part was draw a belt around the present constitution and tighten it until the unnecessaries popped out. Then they pitched what was left, and what had to be written from scratch, at an “acceptable,” a “pragmatic” level, to the convention-to-come. What the commission actually bequeathed to our conventioning legislators are 11 articles: Article I is the old Bill of Rights transferred intact. The voters, in approving the idea of revision, approved a provision that the Bill of Rights be “retained in full.” Civil libertarians will undoubtedly lobby the convention to add to the rights enumerated, contending that nothing in the language of the authorization prevents the new document from protecting more rights than the old. Article II sets out the commission’s version of separation of powers, including the proviso that “except as otherwise authorized by this Constitution, each branch shall exercise the powers appropriate thereto.” Article III covers the legislative powers of the State. There will still be a legislature. Its two houses’ membership, though, may be set by law within certain limits \(for the House, may the compensation of its members and its term of sitting \(at least once every two the province of the Legislature unless it defaults to the Legislative Redistricting Board, but certain caveats are fore-ordained: crossing of county lines, for example, is discouraged. There is also a subsection providing that “No representative district may be divided between senatorial districts,” which would seem to spell an end to large multi-member House districts. There are, as well, six subsections dealing with conflict of interest in the Legislature. In addition to the old provision that a member with private interest in any vote disclose his interest and decline to vote, the new draft stipulates that no member be eligible during his term for an office created by that session nor for any position which has had its salary increased by that session; that no member may have an interest in a contract with the State; that no member may, for compensation, represent any party before a state agency; and that no member may obtain a continuance solely because he is a legislator. Article IV of the draft creates an executive department consisting of an elected governor, lieutenant governor and comptroller, an appointed secretary of state and a general land commissioner whose method of selection would be determined by law. Other offices, including that of railroad commissioner, have been left to the wisdom of the Legislature. The governor’s powers would be beefed up some to compensate him for having his hands tied in cases of predatory bands, cholera epidemics and such: most important, perhaps, the terms of office of all gubernatorial appointees on boards and commissions would be adjusted so that by the middle of his first four-year term any governor will have selected a majority. The governor would also have the authority to reorganize his own executive department, abolishing or diminishing the function of any agency subject to the Legislature’s disapproval within 60 days. The draft would make the governor the chief budget officer of the state, with the duty of submitting appropriations bills and overseeing execution of the budget. And it would give him virtual impoundment powers, since he would retain his “line-item” veto authority and be given the option of reducing any line-item appropriation except an individual salary. The line-item reduction power, the commission reasoned, would check the trend toward lump-sum lines such as “24. All other expenses . . . $48,366,457,” which appeared in this year’s appropriation for the Health Department. Article V, which deals with the judiciary, gave the lawyer-laden commission fits. It ended up retaining justices of the peace, who howled every time anyone mentioned them as anything but jurists of the first water. The commission noted that many are not lawyers, that the required 40 hours a year
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