Why/How is the Texas Governor Powerless?

What powers specifically does the Texas Governor lack compared to other states?

What makes the Lt. governor more powerful?

can you point us in some direction where there is a good citation for your assumption?

I’m not sure yet that what you say is true, can you elaborate and clear up my ignorance?

A couple reasons that I can think of:

  1. Almost all of the high level political jobs in the state are not appointed by the TX governor. (Such as Lt. Governor, Atty General, RR Commissioner, Land Commissioner, Treasurer, etc.) They are either voted directly into office by the voters or are appointed by committees that aren’t beholden to the governor’s opinion. So the TX governor isn’t really directing much of the real work of state business.

  2. The TX governor doesn’t write the state budget, a Senate committee led by the Lt. Governor does. This is one reason why the Lt. Gov. is considered a powerful office. The Lt. Gov. also basically controls the state senate, deciding what bills get voted on, appointing committees and so forth.

I’m not really a government expert though, I’m just a Texan who tries to keep up with state politics. Maybe some others can think of other reasons.

No cite, not even a Wikipedia, just aging memories. I learned a weak governor was the case in Texas History in seventh grade. If I remember correctly, it was due to distrust of large government, central government, the federal government? during writing of the Texas constitution during reconstruction. This is also the reason that so many things require a constitutional amendment in Texas. I think the Texas governor’s main power is the ability to call special sessions of the legislature.

Some info here.

Aren’t these things true in every state?

I really don’t know, but I imagine that many governors get to appoint most or at least many of the higher level positions in the executive branch, like the POTUS does in the federal govt. When a new POTUS is elected he carries in a whole new administration under his control. It is not like that in Texas.

As for the budget, I think most legislatures write the budget, but (again comparing to the federal govt.) the executive has a big hand in crafting that budget. The TX governor has nothing to do with the process (in theory. IRL when the Gov and Lt Gov are from the same party the Gov will have some input).

Nope. Going to vary widely among states. Ohio’s gov. appoints heads of exec agencies, with generally pro forma approval by state legislature. Gov. is also responsible for proposing biennial budget. Lt. Gov. has little authority, essentially working for the governor.

Here is a twelve-year-old Slate column explaining the limited powers of the Texas governor, vs that of the lieutenant governor. “The job of lieutenant governor of Texas is thought by some to be a more powerful but less glamorous job than that of governor. The lieutenant governor presides over the Senate, appoints the Senate’s committees and committee chairs, controls the flow of bills to the floor, and co-chairs the powerful Legislative Budget Board.”

no. In most stqtes, the heads of all those executive agencies & commissions are appointed by the Governor. Usually, the terms of the existing ones expire at inauguration time, so the new governor can appoint all new people of his own views/party. So that gives him a lot of control over all the executive branch that actually does the work of state government.

(Often, these appointment, at least the high level ones, have to be confirmed by the State Senate. But it’s rare that they refuse to confirm a Governor’s appointee, and usually considered a slap to the Governor if they do that.)

The governor is empowered to pray for rain.

I learned this in 2000, when I emailed Orson Scott Card to complain about his support of Dubya, given Texas’s tendency to heavily use the death penalty.

His response was that the Texas governor is not very powerful.

I found this response highly disingenuous, because the Texas governor can easily commute the death sentence to life imprisonment, just like all governors can.

I decided he was a massive troll that day, and he hasn’t proven me wrong so far.

No, that’s not correct - the Texas governor can only grant clemency I it’s first been recommended by the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles. If the Board does not so recommend, the governor cannot grant clemency.

See: http://www.tdcj.state.tx.us/bpp/exec_clem/exec_clem.html

I had no idea. thanks.

This still has no effect on my condemnation of Dubya or Orson Scott Card. Dubya could have spoken out against the extremely high use of the death penalty in Texas, but chose not to. Governors have a bully pulpit.

It’s getting pretty late in the day to be bashing Bush for his record as Governor but to some degree he had a weak office by choice. He chose not to use some of the powers he had at his disposal.

Bush for example needed a recommendation from the clemency board before granting clemency. The clemency board only made that recommendation once - on the one occasion in which Bush asked for such a recommendation. If Bush had asked for fifty recommendations, would he have gotten fifty? Or if the board had sent Bush fifty recommendations, would he have granted fifty clemencies? We don’t know. Bush didn’t push the board and the board didn’t push Bush.

The Texas capital punishment system seems to have been set up so everyone involved can claim they weren’t the one who made the final decision.

Of course, that wasn’t always so. Until the 1970s the lieutenant governor was independently elected and the president of the Ohio Senate. The second-to-last independent lieutenant governor was Republican John W. Brown, who loved the office so much that he served five terms. In 1974, though, he lost his bid for reelection, and so did incumbent Democratic governor John Gilligan (father of Kathleen Sebelius). One of the things that had frustrated the outgoing governor was that he never had a Democratic general assembly, but the same election that turfed him elected a Democratic majority in the House and the Senate. As the new general assembly takes office a few days before the new governor, the governor saw an opening to pass a few pieces of legislation that he’d longed for. As expected, the legislation sailed through both houses…until it got to John W. Brown’s office. He was required by the state constitution to certify all bills passed by the Senate, but he decided to stall until the incoming Republican governor took office. The Senate had a president pro tempore, but he was only allowed to certify the bills if the lieutenant governor was absent. In order to prevent any absence, no matter how slight, the lieutenant governor simply camped in the Statehouse until his term expired. The Senate tried to ignore him completely, but the Republican courts overturned the legislation.

The office was obliterated less than two years later.

Oh, it’s never too late to talk about history.

It’s good to see you offering to step back and take a clear view of George W. Bush and give him an even break, but the fact is that Under George there were more executions than under any other governor in modern American history – 152. He signed more death warrants than any other Texan governor. You can’t simply say that the Texas governor has to wait for clemency to be proposed by others. George didn’t give it even when it was proposed, except in one case


For compareison, look at this chart of executions by state since 1976:

The number of executions during Bush’s watch is larger than the number of executions in any other state since 1976. (Of course, the number of Texas executions is huge by itself, which indicates that it’s in the culture somehow. )

Others have stressed that Texas has a “weak Governor” system. Molly Ivins has made the point numerous times. On the weak governoreship, see here:


I read that the reason the Lt Governor in Texas is so powerful, is that during reconstruction the governor was appointed by the north while the Lt Governor was elected by the people. The balance of power was shifted to give the Lt Governor more power.
George Bush’s power to affect the number of executions was very small. His first year in office the legislature passed a law mandating certain appeals for condemned inmates be filed concurrently. Once this went into effect it dramatically speeded up the number of executions to almost double the previous rate.

He did not use the bully pulpit, when he was governor of Texas.

That’s an intentional choice. A very intentional one. He had plenty of time to do so.

Bush had no desire to use the bully pulpit, he was pro-capital punishment. You almost seem to be working from the assumption that Bush somehow wasn’t explicitly pro-capital punishment, he was explicitly pro capital punishment and said so in every campaign he ran for as Governor of Texas and as President of the United States. By the way, both Gore and Kerry were pro-capital punishment in their campaigns against Bush, as is Barack Obama.

Yes, capital punishment is immoral, but it’s weird people are dredging that up like it’s some deep dark secret from Bush’s past. It was a selling point for many people that voted for Bush as President, and he not only did not hide it, he embraced that image.

It’s funny though that you considered Orson Scott Card a “troll” because he told you that the Texas Governor was weak and couldn’t actually unilaterally grant clemency. When told that you were actually wrong and Card was right, you just shift the goal posts and say “he’s a troll anyway!” Seems like to me if I want factual information I’d go to Orson Scott Carrd and not you.

However I think it very hard to make the argument Bush really is to be given credit or blame for the increased executions in Texas. The legislature (which the Texas Governor genuinely has little control over) passed legislation that streamlined the process in Texas. Texas has been very prone to sentencing people to die for a very long time (pretty much since capital punishment was restarted in the United States), it’s just that in the 90s the Texas legislature passed legislation that made it so more of those people who were sentenced could be executed faster.

Bush basically tried to tread a bit lightly on this issue in 2000 so as not to look openly like a guy reveling in executions, but he definitely used the high rate of executions to make himself like a tough on crime, serious figure who would crack down on criminality and things of that nature. The truth is Bush deserves little of the credit for the high number of executions (and he wanted that credit in 2000), and he also doesn’t really deserve much of the blame either. He does deserve blame for using capital punishment numbers to help himself get elected, but virtually every major Presidential candidate in the last thirty years has supported capital punishment on paper just so they do not look soft on crime.