Friday, June 8, 2012

Initiative, referendum, and recall … do we need them?

By The InkDemon

My friends and relatives on the West Coast used to send me e-mailed petitions. None is valid here in Texas. In fact, Texas is only one of nine states that does not have recall as part of the Constitution. Texas does not have initiative either.

Texas is one of a few states that does not have recall.

Why? Texans have a long distrust of their elected officials. That feeling came out of the Reconstruction era. When Texans finally re-gained control of their state in 1870, they wrote the present Constitution. It is one of the wordiest documents in all the 50 states. practically noting can be done by the Legislature without a state-wide referendum.

Recall was not considered; but if it was known, this blogger is sure it would have been included. Of course, elected officials can be kicked out of office for misconduct. That is left up to impeachment. State officials have been impeached, too. This blogger recalls a Supreme Court Justice Donald Burt Yarbrough, who was indicted for malfeasance and run out of office in the 70′s before he was impeached. The Legislature impeached Gov. James E. Ferguson in 1916. No other governor has been impeached.

Ferguson’s story was unique because his wife, Mariam, later ran for governor and was elected.  They billed themselves as “Ma” and “Pa” Ferguson – Two governors for one vote.   It was a laugh.

Initiative is what generates that annoying e-mails from the West Coast. Out there, they can get up a petition and make almost anything into a law. In fact, California’s state constitution has so many initiative-inspired changes that only about 40 percent of their budget can be changed without a Constitutional amendment. That avenue was attempted a few years ago, but California voters turned it down.

Texas Republican Gov. William P. Clements proposed Initiative and recall when he was governor. The Democrat legislature rejected it.

Recall can get bad officials out of office. However, as we see in Wisconsin it was used to stop officials from making needed reforms. The United States and the 50 states run as republics. That means we the people choose our officials, and the elected officials conduct government. If they are honest, then they should get an opportunity to serve their terms.

Initiative and recall moves the state towards a democracy and the whims of the populace. That was what the founding fathers feared the most.

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