This seminar, “The Executive Branch of the Texas State Government: The Projection of Power,” furthers the public service mission of The University of Texas School of Law by endeavoring to help law students who aspire to become lawyers who practice law in and around Texas state government. The School of Law already offers courses that deal with the legislative branch of the Texas state government and how to navigate it, and virtually every class at the School of Law studies the judicial branch and decisions made by it and their impact. However, there is no course offering that specifically focuses on the executive branch and its interaction with the other two branches of Texas state government. This seminar seeks to provide such a focus.
The Texas Constitution of 1876, which still governs us, created a weak, decentralized government in response to perceived abuses by Reconstruction-era governors and legislatures. One example of this is our biennial legislative sessions. Currently, Texas is the only state in the Union that does not hold annual legislative sessions. Another example is the limited powers granted to the governor and the remainder of the executive branch, especially in comparison to other states.
Even so, the executive branch plays a vital role in the governance of the state. It implements the laws passed by the Legislature and interpreted by the judicial branch. These three branches interact on a constant basis. A recent example of this is the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling of Obergefell v. Hodges declaring unconstitutional any state restrictions on same-sex marriage. In anticipation of the decision, the Legislature enacted the “Pastor Protection Act.” Following the decision, the executive branch began implementation of benefits for same-sex married couples which previously had been reserved for married couples of different sexes, as well as guidance purporting to guarantee the rights of state employees with religious objections to gay marriage. The Attorney General issued controversial guidance to county clerks regarding whether clerks had to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. A number of state legislators asked for a special legislative session to address the opinion. Other examples abound. This seminar seeks to review and analyze the powers and duties of the various executive branch offices and apply them to real-life situations.
The seminar consists of fourteen classroom seminar sessions, covering the specific mechanisms the various executive branch agencies utilize to project power within the constitutional, statutory, and regulatory limitations constraining them.
More specifically, the class will review the various tools at the disposal of the executive branch to project power. These include the executive branch’s role in legislation, the state budget, appointments to state agencies’ boards and commissions, the promulgation and implementation of rules and regulations, litigation and enforcement of statutes and rules, and issuance of orders and proclamations.
The seminar will involve readings of constitutional and statutory provisions, case law, state agency rules, law review articles, and other authorities, as well as real-life examples of the executive branch implementing policy through letters, orders, proclamations, and other means.