Important article by Texasfor56.com
Why open with this statement? Because Texas is among the few states in which the Lieutenant Governor wields more power than the Governor. Our state government was designed with the idea that more checks and balances would be provided if the top executive had less power.
The first part of this article addresses the numerous powers assigned to the Lieutenant Governor in the Texas State Government. The latter part will focus on how these powers were utilized by Lt. Governor Dewhurst in the recently concluded 82nd Legislative Session and how Texans will be affected for years to come.
The Lieutenant Governor of Texas is one of the executive positions in our state government. This position not only controls the work of the Texas Senate but also controls the budgeting process as a leader of the Legislative Budget Board.
Per the Texas Constitution, the Lt. Governor presides over the Texas Senate. By the rules of the Senate, the Lt. Governor establishes both standing and special committees, appoints all committee chairpersons and members, and assigns all Senate legislation to the committee of his choice. He is also the decision maker on questions of parliamentary procedure in the upper chamber and possesses broad discretion in following its procedural rules.
The Lt. Governor is an ex officio member of several statutory bodies which have considerable sway over state programs, the budget and policy, including the Legislative Budget Board, the Legislative Council, the Legislative Audit Committee, the Legislative Board and Legislative Council.
Along with the Speaker of the House, Attorney General, Comptroller, and Land Commissioner, the Lieutenant Governor is also a member of the Legislative Redistricting Board. Following the decennial census the LRB is charged with adopting redistricting plans for the Texas House of Representatives, Texas Senate, the State Board of Education or U.S. House of Representatives in any instance in which the Legislature fails to do so.
Texas is one of the few states in which significant power is vested in this office, making this executive among the most influential in the nation. By contrast, the Lieutenant Governor’s position in other states has few (if any) legislative responsibilities, making them more akin to the Vice President of the United States. The consequence of such a strong Lieutenant Governor of Texas is that the governor’s office is considerably weaker than that of governors in other states.
For Complete and more specific information, the following law school website has the details on the Texas Constitution: http://tarlton.law.utexas.edu/constitutions/text/IART04.html
How did Lt. Governor Dewhurst use his power this year? As chairman, he appointed chairmen to the key committees of redistricting and finance who were questionable at best. Republicans who had very low conservative ratings were given the most powerful chair positions in the Senate.
Upon closer examination, the members of those committees were composed of a majority of Democrats, Rinos and Straus Cronies, and a minor portion of strong conservatives. Due to these “demographics”, true conservative values were not reflected in the resulting votes.
The redistricting maps adopted for the House, Senate, State School Board of Education, and U.S. Congress were the most liberal offerings available to be voted upon. Map versions which were more favorable to conservatives were not even introduced for discussion by the committee. Map experts cannot explain many of the odd actions taken by the redistricting committee which clearly favored Democrats and will stand for the next 10 years. Several conservative maps were offered that were compliant to the Federal Voting Rights Act Requirements. These were ignored, in favor of more liberal maps that would disadvantage conservatives. Isn’t this odd, given the fact that there is a conservative majority in the legislature?
The chairman of the Senate Finance Committee fought to spend as much money as possible for special interest groups, seemingly without regard for the large bills coming due in the next legislative session in 2013.
The Senate’s budget used more money than the House’s version and never addressed non-essential programs, programs with duplicate functions, or a myriad of inefficient uses of taxpayer dollars. Instead, they chose to further enable an education system (exposed earlier this year) with all its areas of bloated budgets. A conference committee was formed to resolve the different bills, and still large amounts of money were spent without addressing the issues.
Currently, public education accounts for 56% of the state’s budget. The spending problems lie within local school district administrations. Rather than passing most of the money through to the teachers and the students, an ever increasing percentage of expenditures are used to grow the administration.
The Senate Finance Chair chose to ignore this fact, and gave more money, allowing this ineffective and unnecessarily expensive practice to continue. Throughout the budgetary extravagances exhibited in committee hearings and floor debate this year, Lt. Governor Dewhurst had little to nothing to say.
Another questionable example of Mr. Dewhurst’s priorities was his handling of the “TSA Groping Bill”. After sailing through the House in the regular session, Senator Dan Patrick introduced the bill on the Senate Floor for a vote, but the Lt. Governor effectively stopped this action. Subsequently, the Senate did not bother to vote on the bill in the regular session.
A great deal of power was wielded by the Lt. Governor of Texas this year. The question Texans must ask is who was the Lt. Governor serving? Most of his decisions and actions certainly were not reflective of the conservative values of Texas.