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The Buck Stops Where? The Politics of Vetoes in Texas

This exercise is going to have you apply your understanding of the content of Module 3 to contemporary Texas politics. You will relate knowledge you have acquired about the Legislative Branch (chapter 8), The Executive Branch (chapter 9), The Public Policy and Administration (chapter 10) and The Judicial Branch (chapter 11). Be sure you have looked over the assigned readings before you prepare your response to this free write.

Our third writing assignment takes on the challenging but important topic of effective government in Texas. I want you to explore different websites and links in order to prepare your thoughts about this topic. We can use our knowledge ofseparation of powers to understand the nature of the controversies and the basis of conflicts in Texas politics. Our starting point is the issuance of post-adjournment vetoes by the governor of Texas. As you learned in your readings, after the legislative session ends any vetoes the governor issues are absolute in that they cannot be overridden by a vote of the House and Senate. But are they all legal? And what are the consequences to effective governance if they are not?

I want you to think about the separation of powers and the ways in which it divides the branches of government. Designed to prevent one of the branches of government from dominating the others and instituting tyranny, today we find that in practice it is frustrating well-intentioned policymaking. When the governor issues a veto he is rejecting policy that was passed in identical fashion in both the Texas House and Senate. He is saying his position on the issue is more important/relevant/nuanced than the decisions duly elected public officials. It is a check on legislative power, for sure, but it is also a demonstration of strong executive power.

In 2015 a new governor, Greg Abbott, had to work with a legislature composed of both new and veteran representatives. The regular session is just 140 calendar days long, and a lot of work is done in the final days leading up to adjournment. After adjournment, the governor has time to reflect on the bills he’s been sent. This is where vetoes can occur. Interestingly, state governors are allowed to veto just the spending part of a bill while keeping the bill itself alive. This is called a line-item veto. The US president does not have this kind of veto power. You need to understand line-item vetoes in order to understand the controversy about Governor Abbott’s vetoes.

For the story, please read these two articles:

Challenged Vetoes Leave $200 Million in Limbo

Legislature Questions Abbott’s Budget Vetoes


The concept of separation of power introduces us to the ways in which the state government operates. Together with checks and balances, this structuring of political power has successfully prevented the imposition of tyrannical government. It has also produced periods of institutional battles, like we face today. Is this actually good for Texas?

Prompts: You will organize your free write response by incorporating the following information (this is required and be sure to make specific references to the sources that influence your position).

1) Describe your understanding of the main issues involved in this dispute between the legislative and executive branches of Texas government (you must use your own words).

2) Do you agree with the legislature’s perspective or the governor’s? Why?

3) Do you think the state legislature should introduce a state constitutional amendment to allow it to return to Austin in special session to address post-adjournment vetoes by the governor?.

4) What have you learned by doing this assignment?


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