Discuss how the population has changed in Texas and how it is projected to change in the future. (Hint: Look at the charts and graphs in Chapter 1.) In what ways might Texas’ politics change in the future based on its racial and ethnic makeup? Based on the population growth, urbanization and economic transformation of the last two decades, how might Texas change in the next two decades? Which areas will grow in population, and what might Texas’ government have to do to respond to that growth? (Be specific)
Compared to the US Constitution, why is the Texas Constitution so frequently amended? How does the turnout for elections dealing with constitutional amendments compare to turnout for presidential elections? (Refer to “Who are Texans?” in Chapter 2). Do you think the level of turnout influences the legitimacy of the amendments that are passed or rejected? Do you think that more people should participate in constitutional amendment elections? Why or why not? Is there anything the state can do to increase turnout for constitutional amendment elections?
Has the evolving relationship between the federal government and the states changed for the better or worse? Why? How has Texas generally responded to mandates from the federal government? Do you think the federal government should be allowed to enact “unfunded mandates” on the states? What state issues, if any, do you feel the federal government should be involved in? Why these and not others?
Do you think political parties serve an important function in Texas? Why? What are some of the barriers to third parties in Texas? Do you think Texas should make it easier for minor parties to gain political power? Why or why not? What changes would you make in order to improve the visibility and power of minor parties in Texas?
What are some of the past and more recent barriers to voting in Texas? (Be specific) What accounts for the low level of voter participation in Texas? What can be done to increase voter participation? (Specifically discuss at least two policy proposals that election officials could adopt.) Under legislation passed in 2017, Texas will be eliminating straight-ticket voting beginning with the 2020 elections. Do you agree with this? Why or why not?
What are some of the positive and negative consequences of former members of the Texas Legislature lobbying current members of the legislature? People in the legislature and outside observers have discussed putting limitations on lobbying by former members. Should Texas enact laws to limit the ability of ex-legislators to lobby? What major proposal was put forward in the 2019 legislative session? How far did the bill go in the Texas Legislature? (Note: The Texas Tribune is a good source for information on the legislative session.)
Discuss the gender, racial and educational makeup of the Texas Legislature. (Refer to “Who are Texans?” in Chapter 7.) Does it adequately represent the population of the state? If the legislature had more people of color, more women, or more people of varying levels of education, do you think it would pass different policies? If so, what kinds of policies might they pass? (Be specific here.) Does the part-time nature of the Texas legislature encourage or discourage people from particular occupations to run? Do you think a full-time legislature could make the legislature more representative? Why or why not?