Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Editorials: Where I rant to the wall about politics. And sometimes the wall rants back.

Proposition 3: Slowly chipping away at Austin’s permanent political class

Jerry Stratton, October 21, 2015

Rosemary Lehmberg falling-down-drunk

Drunk drivers make it unsafe for politicians to live in Travis County.

I am continually amazed at the way the established political class has made being part of the established political class a requirement of governing in this country.

When I wrote that we should disband the state capital and let state officials work from outside the capital, I had no idea the law required some state officials to live inside the capital.

Texas requires state officers “elected by the electorate of Texas at large” to “reside at the Capital of the State during his continuance in office”.

Currently this includes the Comptroller of Public Accounts, the Commissioner of the General Land Office, the Attorney General, the Commissioner of Agriculture, and the three Railroad Commissioners.

Forget having to be a citizen of the United States, or a resident of the state; to be an officer of the state, you have to be a resident of Austin.

While I can understand why this was put in the constitution in 1876, I think it was a bad idea even then. If someone doesn’t do a good job because they live too far away, they’ll be voted out. Even if the requirement had been justified, this is also a good example of something that is better a law than a constitutional requirement.

Proposition 3 aims to remove this requirement, and let people also live in the surrounding cities—or anywhere in Texas if they wish. In the comments by supporters in the Analysis of Proposed Constitutional Amendments, November 3, 2015, is:

The capital residency requirement was included in the 1876 Texas Constitution when state officers traveled to the state capital by horse and buggy and has not been amended since. Advances in transportation, communication, and technology have rendered the residency requirement obsolete and have provided the possibility of performing official duties from other locations. In addition, state officers’ duties extend to locations other than the state capital, and performance of those duties may require the officers to spend a majority of their time away from Austin. Further, the residency requirement creates for statewide offices an elite class of candidates who live in or can afford to move to Austin.

It’s the emphasized section that makes this relatively minor change important. The residency requirement helps limit state offices to those who live in or would like to live in—and can afford to live in—Austin.

The opposition comments include:

Essentially, state officers serve as the chief operating officers for their respective state agencies, which have central offices in Austin, and the officers’ duties require the officers to be available to the agency employees serving in Austin.

News flash: Chief Operating Officers no longer have to live in company towns. A whole lot of people commute to Austin today from surrounding towns and cities. It’s nothing out of the ordinary.

Opponents also argue that counties other than Travis County might “provide a more favorable venue than Travis County for any legal action brought against the officer.” But given how utterly insane Travis County’s legal actions are, Travis County should clean its own house before complaining about others.

The measure passed the Senate and House with fairly strong margins; its only real opposition came in the House, from, not surprisingly, Democrats. Democrats voted against the amendment by two to one, 35 out of 52. While both parties tend to support the permanent political class today, Democratic politicians remain its strongest proponents.

In response to Texas 2015: News from Texas in 2015.

  1. <- Round Rock Redflex vote