The San Antonio Express-News’ Peggy Fikac reported that Rep. Lyle Larson (R-San Antonio) plans to file legislation that would give the governor the authority to appoint several offices currently elected statewide:

  • Commissioner of Agriculture
  • Commissioner of the General Land Office; and
  • A new commissioner of energy, which would replace the three Railroad Commissioners.

In the late 1940s, the Texas Legislature replaced the elective office of State Superintendent of Public Education with the appointed Commissioner of Education. This is the most recent such change that we are aware of. The last statewide elected office removed from the ballot in Texas was the State Treasurer. In 1995, voters approved a constitutional amendment abolishing the office and transferring its responsibilities to the comptroller’s office. A year earlier, voters elected Martha Whitehead to the position after she campaigned to abolish the office.

Changing a statewide elective office to an appointed one appears to be an uncommon practice across the nation. In 2011, Oregon made the superintendent of public education an appointed office. In 2003, Florida shifted the comptroller, education commissioner, secretary of state and treasurer from elected to appointed offices. Minnesota made the state treasurer an elective office in 2002.

In many states, their statewide elective offices are established by their constitutions. In Texas, the General Land Office (Art. 4. Sec. 1) and the election of the Railroad Commissioners (Art. 16, Sec. 30) are constitutionally established. Voters would need to approve changing these offices to appointed positions.

Subscribers can read the rest of this post, including a look at how the other 49 states elect, or don’t elect, their “cabinet” officials.

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