Monday, April 18, 2016

From the Texas Tribune: Analysis: Legal Matters Could Temporarily Expand Abbott’s Power

The plural executive might be - temporarily - a bit singular based on recent events.

- Click here for the story.

Texas doesn’t have a cabinet form of government, but in Gov. Greg Abbott’s case, it might soon have the next best thing.
Two of the state’s relatively new elected officials — Attorney GeneralKen Paxton and Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller — are in deep political trouble at the moment. If worst comes to worst for either or both of those fine gentlemen, Abbott would appoint their replacements.
That’s a lot more say than he had when they won the positions in 2014.
State officials in Texas don’t run on tickets of their own choosing. What looks to the voters like a team — with candidates for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and so on — is really just a collection of unrelated candidates who happen to belong to the same political party.
. . . In other states, governors and lieutenant governors get elected together, like presidents and vice presidents. Many states have cabinet governments where, as in the federal government, the chief executive chooses the state’s top lawyers, finance officials and other high officials. The governor runs the government, gets the credit and takes the blame.
Texas governors get some of the credit, most of the blame and none of that power: The 18 judges who sit on the state’s highest civil and criminal courts and the eight officials who run other executive departments are elected in their own right — sometimes from opposing political parties or factions. Photo ops are the only Kumbayah moments.
Abbott can’t control the comptroller, steer oil and gas regulators, decide whether and how the state jumps into lawsuits, or run the Senate, the agriculture or land offices. He didn’t hire them. He can’t fire them. And replacing them is left to the voters.
But if the wheels of justice turn against Paxton or Miller or both, forcing or prompting one or both of them to leave office, the governor would have vacancies to fill — just as he would in a cabinet form of government.
The new occupants wouldn’t be under his control, but they would probably remember how they got those great jobs. It’s a subtle difference, but a real one: Are they going to check in with the governor’s office on big decisions and announcements or follow their own political stars?

For background on the problems the AG and Ag Commissioner are facing:

SEC Charges Ken Paxton With Securities Fraud.
Timeline: Attorney General Ken Paxton's Legal Saga.
- Sid Miller Criminal Case Would Stay in Travis County.
- Texas Rangers Investigating Sid Miller's State-Paid Trips.

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