Plural vs. Single Executive

Over the course of the last module and this one, we’ve spent some significant time talking about Texas’ plural executive. Texas has a number of executive officers who are elected separately, and have major responsibilities in running the state’s government. This arrangement that Texas has set up for this is far from unique: most states have set up similar structures in which officials share responsibilities between one another. Most states have at least an elected Attorney General (43 states), Secretary of State (37 states), and Treasurer (34 states). Some states, like New Jersey, have single executives, which means that all governing responsibility and accountability falls on one executive: the Governor, who appoints all members of his cabinet as well as heads of agencies.

Supporters of a plural executive fear that a single executive would lead to an all-powerful (too powerful!) governor. As you might remember from my lecture about the history of the Texas Constitution, that was definitely a concern that the drafters of the 1876 Constitution shared. They were trying to make sure that no governor would ever be as powerful again as Governor E.J. Davis. They also believed that a plural executive would bring the government of the state closer to the people, and make it easier for the people to hold the state government accountable.

In contrast to that, those who support a plural executive believe that a single executive will make a state government run more efficiently, because of the lack of individual electoral incentives and conflicting priorities between members of the executive branch. Additionally, that lack of electoral incentives makes it so that the state government can present a unified policy agenda, rather than one that is spread between different constituencies (see, for instance, a State Board of Education that is elected but using different districts than any other office in the state of Texas).

What do you think?

  1. Looking back to our module on the Governor, are there any particular powers that the Texas Governor has that make the office unusually weak or strong? 
  2. Would you increase, decrease, or keep the powers of the Texas Governor the same? And should the state move to a single executive branch?
  3. Should the Texas Governor have the same powers as governors in other large urban states?

Nuts and Bolts of the Assignment

  1. Respond specifically to all questions asked, using what you have read and what we have discussed in our group meetings as context for your responses. A paragraph or two is a good length for your responses to each question, and your answers must be supported by your reasons for that answer;
  2. Respond to at least one posted answer of a classmate for this discussion board. Your response should reflect not only agreement or disagreement with what your classmate has said, but the specific reasons for your response, in a paragraph or two;
  3. Post the responses in (1) and (2) above by the deadline, and use complete sentences with correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation (use a narrative style, as opposed to responding in bullet points). If you disagree with a classmate’s position, which is of course allowed, make sure that you write your response in an appropriate, respectful manner. Personal attacks of any kind are not acceptable in academic discourse.